SEO copywriting is not that complicated

If copywriting was an iPad, SEO would be a free app. It would not be an iPad competitor.

As an online copy manager working on an SEO initiative to improve the company website, my copy team thinks of me as an SEO writing expert. And I completely agree! Except I can’t read charts or graphs.

If someone on your team is the “SEO expert,” pressure’s off. That guy’s on the case.

But that’s just too easy. All writers should be SEO pros and it’s easy to become one. A good starting point is a smidge of professional humility (as Socrates says, “I know that I know nothing”). It makes the learning process that much easier.

The audience is key.

This is basic copywriting, but it’s especially important here. Who are you writing to?

If it’s social media, a tweet or Facebook post needs to engage or inform, and in general, it addresses a limited and self-selecting readership. This readership is constantly evolving and changing, which means you have to keep your understanding of social media flexible and open.

SEO is more broad because search is more broad. It touches on everything we write apart from radio scripts, print ads, personal journals, posters, or billboards. If it’s online, it should be optimized for humans and for search bots.

SEO is an add-on for copywriters.

As I dug into my own SEO writing project, I had to adjust my mindset (and not my approach or writing style) to better understand how readers find and use information and, as a result of that, how Google seems to rank the information.

Here are a few things I’ve picked up in the past year, subtle tweaks that make online copy a bit more optimized:

  • Move the keywords to the beginning of the header tags. If that creates an awkward construction, revise until it doesn’t. You can always revise until it works.
  • Make sure the intro to the page communicates what the reader can expect to find throughout the page. Scan the subheads. If a paragraph at the bottom doesn’t seem to belong (even when it fits within the flow of the page), the reader may not get to it.
  • Consider how you read online. You probably scan and digest a page with incredible speed. Write for the version of yourself who works for another company and is looking for info or advice on the topic you’re addressing.
  • Google, for all its complex algorithms, just wants to give the searcher a good experience. If you do, too, Google will reward you.

The general rule, as far as I can tell: if you’re writing online and you keep the reader in mind, hey presto, you’re an SEO copywriter. Optimize that bullet (“Expert SEO writer”), add it to your LinkedIn profile, and carry it around like a feather in your copywriting cap.

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