What is an SEO copywriter?
And why SEO is the new black in content marketing
Since I began freelancing, 95% of the writing I’ve done for brands has been online – for their websites, blogs, social media and emails.
Although many people don’t realise it, writing online content is a specialist job that requires specific, sometimes technical, search engine optimisation (SEO) knowledge which is used to maximise the reach and effectiveness of your content strategy.
Most copywriters have at least a basic understanding of SEO, but there are many out there who claim to know more than they do. So, what is an SEO copywriter?
Not all copywriters and content writers have the same skills
When you employ a content writer or a copywriter (yes, there is a slight difference that I’ll explore later) to write for you, you’re asking them to do more than slap words on a page.
The first task your writer undertakes is getting to know you and your business, so the words they write sound like you. This is where your copywriter takes a thorough brief from you, which asks:
- What problems your business solves for its customers
- Who those customers are (in detail)*
- What makes your brand better/more qualified/most suitable to solve those problems
- Who your competitors are, and what they’re doing to solve those problems
- The details of your products/services and how they benefit your customer
(*If you want help trying to pin down what makes your business best able to solve your customer’s problems – you might like to download my USP template.)
Depending on your project, your copywriter might leave it there. But if you’re asking your copywriter to write words that will be read online – they also need to ask you:
- What SEO keywords your website is already targeting (so they can avoid keyword cannibalisation – aka targeting the same keyword across multiple pages)
- If you know what existing meta data has been written for your site’s pages (in case they need to be re-written)
- If you have optimised the image alt tags in your website (in case they need optimising for Google)
In other words, an SEO copywriter understands how to choose words that’ll help your website get found by your ideal customers. They don’t just look at the words on the front of your webpage or blog, they work to rewrite all the necessary behind-the-scenes elements that also help people find your site.
If you have a business that doesn’t rely on word of mouth, and you want your website to be found online but you don’t think you need to know anything about SEO – you’re mistaken.
The first rule of SEO is you don’t talk about SEO
Well, not really but I couldn’t resist.
So, while this isn’t technically true – SEO has always been perceived to be a bit of a dark art. In the past, many people have used different ways to trick the search algorithms into helping them rank. But Google cottoned on, and their algorithms are progressively getting smart enough to see right through these tactics. It’s fair to say now, that they’ll probably hurt you more than they help you.
One thing has remained the same though: Understanding how people behave online is key to understanding how to write content for this space.
Not only does an SEO copywriter need the skills to be able to write compelling, persuasive, benefit-focused copy that also appeals to the right people (say that ten times fast) they need to make sure the content is easily digestible.
What happens when your content is not designed to be easily read online?
In case you haven’t noticed by the squillions of search results, and the state of your c-r-o-w-d-e-d inbox – everyone is trying to grab your attention online. So, if the words you’ve carefully crafted aren’t formatted for readability – they just won’t get read.
1. We scan content online, we don’t read it
Steve Krug, author of the book Don’t Make Me Think, said it perfectly:
“One of the very few well-documented facts about web use is that people tend to spend very little time reading most web-pages. Instead, we scan (or skim) them, looking for words or phrases that catch our eye.”
Since the explosion of content marketing and aggregated news sites and social platforms, we’ve become so accustomed to skimming the titles to find what is relevant to us, without reading everything.
2. We don’t want to waste time searching for what we want
Personally, I’ve found that the window of time I have online to complete a task like booking a flight or making a purchase, is getting smaller and smaller. I expect the website I visit to be easy to navigate (or easily searchable) and easy to read. If it isn’t, I find another site that is and I’m betting your other visitors are too.
Some research suggests that our attention spans online have been reduced to about 8 seconds, but other research has debunked this theory. Either way, if your website makes your reader work too hard to find the information they want, they’re not likely to stick around.
3. We’re great at scanning documents to find the bits that are relevant to us
When we learn to read, we also learn to scan. Newspapers are almost a thing of the past now, but have you ever wondered why they arrange the text within the paper the way they do?
Readers know that when they sit down to read a newspaper, not everything is going to appeal to them, so they scan the document for the stuff they want to read. So, each section and sub-section of content is broken up by hierarchical headings. Those with greater importance are in bigger, bolder text designed to grab your attention. The same technique applies to headings on good webpages and titles and subtitles on well-formatted blog posts or emails.
If people are scanning your content and not reading it, how do you ensure they get all the info they need?
An SEO copywriter will understand not just how to craft clickable headlines and call-to-actions, but also understand how they should be formatted on a page to compel people to keep reading scanning for the info they need.
An SEO copywriter will understand how to structure each web page so that the customer is able to find what they want to know – without making them think too much about their choices.
If your content is too hard for your readers to digest, they’ll leave. End of story.
SEO copywriters understand the bigger picture
So how does SEO fit into the bigger picture? Say you want to hire a content writer to write a series of blog posts that align with your content strategy. You’ve planned out the topics you want to explore over the coming months (go, you!) and your content writer agrees to the job.
Have you considered how these blogs might impact your website’s ability to rank on a search engine?
Have you considered how to get guest-blogging opportunities and build rapport with other influencers in your niche? (While also building a fab backlink profile?)
These are just some considerations that a great SEO copywriter will consider when they are conducting a brief for a blogging job with a client. Sure, you can employ a writer to just write content, but it won’t have the same impact for your business if you neglect these other SEO opportunities.
A good SEO copywriter can teach you how to measure your actions
You’ve got your short-tail and long-tail keywords integrated into the content across your site. You’ve got your content strategy sorted and you’ve got a pro copywriter on your team. How do you know if it’s working?
There are heaps of brilliant tools out there for the more advanced SEO junkies, but you should at least have the basics set up for your sites, such as Google Analytics and Google Console.
It will cost a bit more, but your SEO copywriter can help you to understand these tools. You’ll be able to monitor any problems and know:
- If Google hasn’t been able to reach any of your web pages to index them (which makes them searchable)
- If there are any pages that aren’t working (showing a 404 not found error)
- What keywords people are typing in when you appear in the search results
- Plus plenty more…
What is an SEO copywriter?
In a nutshell, this is why you should hire an SEO copywriter, over a print copywriter for your next online project.
Over to you
Have you hired a copywriter before? I’d love to know more about your experience.
If you loved this blog, please share and comment below and keep your eyes peeled for more tips on SEO content writing.
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