What is the fundamental difference between traditional and web copywriting?
In a word, it’s visibility.
When your content appears in print, it’s already in a place to catch a certain audience’s attention. Your copy is visible to whoever decides to flip through your magazine, unfold your letter or shuffle
open your newspaper.
Putting your ad into print is like fishing in a well-stocked pond. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a bite, but you’ve at least cast your lure where it will be seen.
Writing web copy, on the other hand, can feel like dropping words into the middle of the ocean. How can you possibly hope to reach anyone, let alone your ideal prospects, in such vast waters?
The answer is a lot simpler than you’d think.
Why SEO Copywriting Matters
Ask yourself: how do you find stuff online?
The most common answer is Google.
Search engines are the single biggest source of B2B and B2C website traffic, responsible for 61% of all website hits worldwide. Nothing else even comes close.
Incredibly, only 10% of that is paid search advertising – meaning 51% of all website visits come from the search results that occur ‘naturally’ (known as organic search traffic)
When you drill down and look at where all that traffic is coming from, you’ll find that most of it happens on the very first page of search results. In truth, experts estimate that 71% of all Google users hardly ever venture past page one.
What does all this mean to you as a writer? Simple: if you write content that Google loves, Google will put it front of an audience.
Instead of drifting aimlessly in the middle of the sea, you’ll be back to casting into a pond that’s full of potential catches.
What Google Wants to See in Your Copy
The challenge is convincing Google that your copy is worth showing people.
That means crafting copy in a way that impresses the search engine algorithm – the digital mastermind that decides where your webpage should rank for different search queries.
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Traditional ad copy plays on the whims and emotions of warm-blooded humans. Search engines are cold, heartless machines.
But Google doesn’t crawl and rank webpages all for itself. Google works for us. It was built to deliver accurate, relevant information and answers to every imaginable query.
Of course, search engines don’t look at a webpage the same way as you or I. Your copy and the webpage containing it needs to look a certain way for Google to know what it’s about.
Google loves copy that is:
- Enriched with relevant keywords and phrases.
- Organized with logical headings, bullet points and numbered lists.
- Surrounded by relevant images or videos.
- Comprehensive, complete and accurate
Here’s how that translates to practical SEO copywriting.
1. Make Your Copy One-Of-a-Kind
Imagine you’ve bought three books by three totally different authors – only to discover that beyond the unique covers, each book treads over the exact same content. Such a waste of time (and paper!)
You’d feel the same way if you clicked through three search results and found largely identical content. To avoid this annoyance, Google strives to fill its search results with pages that provide unique, distinct information.
If a site has two extremely similar pages – for example, ‘regular’ and ‘printer-friendly’ versions with the same copy – one of them is going to get filtered out. You can tell Google which version you’d prefer to show off in the search results using canonicalization.
But what if your website uses copy that appears elsewhere on the web? Say you’re running an online store that sells other brands’ products. You might’ve considered ‘borrowing’ some copy from the brand’s website on your own product pages to save time.
Resist the temptation. Duplicate copy can hurt your site’s search ranking. Google loves original content, even on the most well-tread topics.
2. Lock-On to Your Target Audience with Keywords
Search engines are great at picking up patterns. It’s one of the primary ways they process and understand what a webpage (and a website at large) is about.
When a particular word or phrase appears repeatedly throughout a webpage, the crawler clues in. If these terms are also surrounded by quality and relevant copy, it increases the odds of that webpage ranking for search queries that use the same important word. Hence the term keyword.
Keywords are at the core of SEO copywriting. Enriching your content with well-researched keywords is one of the best ways to help it reach the right audience.
3. Use Headings, Bullets and Lists
Have you ever had to speed-read part of a textbook moments before class?
No shame – we’ve all done it at one point in our lives.
Take a second to think about how you read a page when you’re down to the wire like that. You tend to flip through quickly, skim over paragraphs and focus on things that stand out:
- Heading and subheadings
- Lists, tables and diagrams
It’s not too different from how Google parses a webpage.
4. Compliment Your Copy with Awesome Images and Videos
Think your web copy can stand alone? Think again.
Visual content is so powerful when it comes to SEO that it’s practically mandatory.
To date, Google Image Search has indexed over 10 billion images and stands as the second-biggest search engine (earning about 23% MORE searches than YouTube) Incredibly, images also account for about 3% of all Google search clicks via image blocks.
The stats on video are equally enticing. One research firm estimates that having a video on a page increases its chance of a top Google ranking by 53%! Another has found that video boosts your organic traffic by as much as 157%.
Video and image files also serve as another clue to the topic of your page in the eyes of the algorithm. You might not give a second thought to your file names and metadata, but this information can really help reinforce the keyword or phrase you’re targeting in your copy.
5. Be the Authority on Your Subject Matter
Above all else, Google wants to make its users happy.
Why? Because more users mean more advertising revenue.
The people behind Google Search (and competing search engines like Bing) work tirelessly to develop a search engine algorithm that delivers the most accurate, relevant answers to your queries. As a result, the system tends to favour content that is more thorough, accurate and digestible than other pages on the same topic.
This doesn’t always mean your copy needs to be longer than your competitors’ pages. Rather, it should deliver more information and/or better information (ideally, it does both).
Smart keywords, quality visuals and good formatting are all valuable assets when it comes to writing for SEO – but they’ll fall flat if the copy doesn’t deliver. In fact, Google can even penalize your website if the copy doesn’t live up to the hype.
Start Writing Copy That Google Loves
Of course, getting people to your landing page with search-friendly copy is only half the battle. You’ve still got to turn those eager prospects into customers. That requires a calculated blend of persuasive writing, pitch-perfect web design and proven sales tactics.
It’s well worth your effort to get the ingredients right from the start.