What Is SEO Writing?
What Is SEO Writing?
Content marketing has forever changed the way in which brands advertise their products and services and, more notably, leveled the playing field for businesses of all sizes. Though it had tumultuous beginnings, content marketing finally evolved into THE way of marketing, with more than 90% of businesses adopting the technique. That said, content marketing is not a singular activity but rather, a process made up of several activities. Of those, the two main components are copywriting and SEO writing. What is SEO writing, and how does it differ from copywriting? We’ll attempt to answer your questions in the sections below.
What Is Content Marketing?
In the most general sense of the term, content marketing refers to the process of creating and publishing content for the purpose of attracting and engaging website visitors and converting them into leads. The content itself can take various forms, including but not limited to blog posts, website pages, landing pages, email newsletters, press releases, videos and infographics. Social media posts, title tags and meta descriptions are also considered “content,” as are product descriptions, category descriptions, paid ads and headlines.
Regardless of the type of content you create or what it looks like, it all involves one crucial element: the written word. And this is where the confusion regarding SEO writing and copywriting can set in.
Though each marketing asset requires writing, not all should be written in the same style. For each deliverable to achieve the goal you set for it, you need to write it for the intended audience. To understand what we mean, consider the way in which you would tell a story to your mother versus how you would recount it to your best friend. You might embellish more for your BFF, as s/he may appreciate a dramatic tale every once in a while. For your mom, however, you would keep the story short, simple and free of fluff, as her days for drama are long gone.
This same concept applies to copywriting and SEO writing. Though you want to convey the same message across all marketing channels, you may need to tweak the language, format and other aspects of the delivery to appeal to specific audiences. While audience demographics will vary across various channels, they will ultimately fall into one of two categories: human and search bot. You do copywriting for the humans. SEO writing, on the other hand, is for the robots.
What Is Copywriting?
The term “copy” refers to the text in and on materials, such as brochures, emails, milk cartons, Google ads and just about anything else you can think of. Copywriting, then, is the process of creating that text with the goal of persuading consumers to make a purchase or take some other desired action. You need not look far for examples of copywriting, as chances are they are all around you. Here are a few places you can find copy with a quick glance:
- Shampoo bottle
- Direct mail flyer
- Food packaging
- Google search results
- Promotional pen
Every piece of text you read on purchased goods was created with deliberation and a specific goal in mind.
The Elements of Copywriting
Copywriting can take many forms and cover a vast array of projects. However, for it to achieve its purpose — whether that be to persuade, educate, inform or all of the above — it should make a lasting impression on those who read it. To do that, copywriters need to focus on two crucial elements:
- Emotional Appeal: Strong copywriting strikes an emotional chord in readers. It uses specific language — and purposely avoids other words — to elicit a desired response. The best copywriters also know what format and combination of words to use to create a specific experience for readers.
- Intended Audience: For strong copy to appeal to readers’ emotions, it must be targeted. Before sitting down to write, a copywriter will identify and learn more about to whom he or she is writing and identify readers’ pain points. In taking the time to learn more about the buyer persona, the writer can create content that appeals to the audience on an emotional and practical level.
Not all writers are copywriters. Copywriting that produces results takes significant time, effort and talent to create, which is why copywriting is such a valuable marketing skill.
What Is SEO Writing?
Search engine optimization refers to the process marketers use to increase their visibility in the SERPs and boost their site’s organic search rankings. Though there are several methods by which one can do this, the best way to obtain enduring results is through SEO writing. But what is SEO writing?
SEO writing involves creating content with a focus on specific keywords and phrases for the purposes of helping searchers easily find said content on the search engines. The best SEO writing uses high-quality copy as a foundation and optimizes it for targeted search terms. It also appeals to both users and search engines.
Once upon a time, it was common for SEO writers to ignore the user experience entirely and write strictly for the search bots using “black hat” SEO techniques. Common techniques included keyword stuffing, buying backlinks and cloaking. The end results typically included keyword-dense blocks of unintelligible text that didn’t provide much, if any, value to the reader.
Today, the search engines (specifically Google) have no tolerance for black hat SEO and penalize websites that engage in black hat techniques. Google wants to rank content that was created with the user in mind and in which searchability is an added bonus. To create this type of content, there are a few components SEO writers should focus on.
Write for the Reader First and Foremost
SEO is a continually evolving discipline. In the middle-ages of content marketing (after the era of keyword stuffing), SEO writers attempted to squeeze the same keyword or phrase into a piece of content as many times as possible. This is because, back then, Google ranked websites based on keyword density. In the past five years or so, however, Google realized that by ranking websites based on how many times they could repeat the same keyword, it was actually rewarding site owners for publishing spammy content with little to no value. So, it shifted its approach.
Today, Google considers five key factors when determining which pages to return for particular queries:
- Meaning of the search query
- Webpage relevance
- Content quality
- Webpage useability
As you may notice, each of these ranking factors is geared toward ensuring the user has a seamless search experience. You can help Google achieve its goal and, therefore, earn its favor, by writing with the end-user in mind. How can you do that and still achieve maximum searchability with each piece you publish? Two words: Keyword research. This brings us to our next point.
Conduct Thorough Keyword Research
Ideally, you will focus each page on a single keyword or keyword phrase. That keyword needs to do a lot of heavy lifting, so it’s important that you choose wisely. For starters, you should choose a keyword or phrase that people use to search for information about your products or services. However, don’t assume the most obvious keyword is best.
The best keyword is popular but not too competitive. It also creates the opportunity to answer a user’s initial search query, and then to expand on the topic by addressing additional questions the reader may have. For this reason, you should conduct your keyword research with not just the main topic, but also with subtopics, in mind. If you can only go so far with a particular keyword — even if it has a high search score — you may want to keep looking.
The goal is to create the most thorough and value-driven piece of content possible for the word or phrase you choose. When creating this piece, you should not have to worry about how or where you will incorporate search terms. Rather, inserting them should be natural and almost effortless.
Write With Google’s Ranking Factors at the Forefront of Your Mind
We know, we know … We told you to write for the reader first and foremost, and while we stand by this advice, you should also know that pages that rank well also cater to Google’s preferences. Though Google looks at more than 200 ranking factors, there are 10 that have more influence than others:
- Value: Is your content relevant, user-friendly and accurate?
- User Experience: Does your content create a positive user experience? In other words, is it visually appealing, easy to engage with and does it address the user’s query?
- Mobile-Friendly: Is your site accessible across multiple devices?
- Backlinks: Is your content worthy of backlinks from other reputable sites?
- Traffic: Does the majority of your site’s traffic come from direct searches, or do visitors find you through a Google search?
- Page Speed: Does each page load in 2 seconds or less?
- HTTPS: Is your site secure?
- Behavioral Signals: Are people interacting with your content, meaning do they mention it, comment on it or share it?
- Schema: Can the search engines easily understand what your content is about?
- Content Depth: Is your content more thorough and helpful than similar pages on the internet?
How SEO Writing and Copywriting Are the Same
Though copywriting and SEO writing appear to be vastly differing disciplines, they share one similarity (other than the obvious), and it’s a big one: They’re both done to accomplish business objectives. Ultimately, the goal of both copywriting and SEO writing is to attract prospects, nurture leads and drive conversions. So, while writers’ approaches to both types of writing may vary, at the end of the day, they will need to thoroughly understand your goals before putting pen to paper or, more likely, fingertips to keyboard.
SEO Writing and Copywriting: The Two Go Hand in Hand
Now that you have your answer to the question, “What is SEO writing and how does it differ from copywriting,” you may wonder which you should use. Is one better than the other?
As you can probably already guess, both copywriting and SEO writing are crucial components of any effective marketing strategy. While you may be able to get by with one for a short while, you won’t get very far. Like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, and biscuits and gravy — both feed off each other and deliver optimal results when used together. If you hope to devise and implement an effective marketing strategy, you will want to educate yourself on both and ensure you have writers on your team who have the talent and know-how to create content that falls into both disciplines.