Google doesn't disclose specifics about how it ranks web content. It tells us it uses over 200 criterion, but the ranking algorithm itself is a well-kept secret.
For that reason and others, SEO copywriting best practices can't and don't guarantee a top ranking in Google's search results. Nor can they promise a high conversion or click-thru rate.
Michael Phelps applied best practices to earn the most Olympic medals in history
SEO best practices, like the best practices employed by the world's best athletes, do demonstrate a pattern of repeated success over time. They're the next best thing to specific direction from Google and it makes sense to embrace them.
The SEO copywriting best practices in this post are derived from:
- published SEO industry expert research and opinion;
- Google's published search engine guidelines.
They're intended primarily for small business owners and website developers although anyone that writes content intended for the Web should find them useful.
SEO isn't rocket science but it is complex. It's about a lot of seemingly small things that add up over time to create a synergistic outcome. Pay attention to these guidelines. Some may seem like a nit, but when you're in a competition - and that's what SEO is, after all - small things can make a BIG difference.
SEO Copywriting Best Practices
In no particular order:
- Write content consistent with the theme of your site.
- Focus on one topic per page or post.
- Create only one page or post per specific topic so you don't confuse search engines about which to rank higher. Don't, for example, create multiple pages that all contain the same or very similar content but are aimed at different audiences or geographic locations.
- In terms of length, aim for a minimum of 300 words per page, excluding menu items, sidebars, comments and footer text. While substance and clarity should be your primary concern, longer is usually better. Content with 1,500+ words tends to earn the most exposure.
- Make the page easy to scan by using lots of white space, headings, subheadings and bullet points. Draw attention to key points by using a bold and/or italic font.
- Include visuals - charts, images, photos and/or videos. It improves reader enjoyment, understanding, retention and click-thrus.
- Feature your most important keywords high on the page (in the first sentence or paragraph if possible), in the middle and towards the end. (Notice where I've used "seo copywriting best practices" in this post - top, middle, end.)
- Use your primary keyword phrase (the one you most want to rank for):
- 2-3 times on short pages;
- 4-6 times on longer ones;
- once in the H1 heading;
- in H2-6 headings (however many times it makes sense); and
- if possible, once in bullet points, bold and/or italicized text.
- Use secondary (less important) keyword phrases at least once in the visible text on the page.
- Link to your content from other internal and external related pages using your keywords in the link text, so long as it doesn't sound forced or unnatural.
Ask a friend to review and provide feedback on your writing
When you're done writing, ask a friend or colleague to provide feedback before you publish your content. If that's not an option, let it sit for a day or two and then read it aloud for a renewed perspective. Taking a pause or asking for an objective option helps surface forced or unnatural language as well as logic gaps, inconsistencies and spelling and/or grammatical errors.
SEO copywriting doesn't become fluid overnight. Nor does it produce immediate results. Michael Phelps lost his first event, the 400-meter individual medley, at 2002 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Yokohama, Japan because he "did not take butterfly training seriously". Take SEO copywriting seriously. Be consistent. Stick with it and you'll see results.
Other Helpful Resources
Don't know about keyword phrases or how to identify them? Check out SEO Industry Leader Moz's Guide to Keyword Research. Or go directly to Google's keyword research tool (Google Planner) and use this Youtube video or guide from the Search Engine Journal to help.
Using WordPress? This article provides a 12-step process and checklist for optimizing a blog post using WordPress and the WordPress For SEO Yoast plugin. It includes how to find and optimize images, and how to identify keywords quickly and easily.
A shorter, PDF version of this SEO Copywriting Best Practice post can be found by clicking here.
What has been your experience with SEO copywriting? Do you have a particular technique that works best for you? Please share in the comments below.