“Hello. I’m Alex, and I write content designed to please machines.”
It’s not the most charismatic answer to the question of “what’s your day job?”, but is it an accurate description?
After all, my role demands that the thousands of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and expletives (just kidding, I’d never dream of swearing) I type each week please Google’s algorithm in some way. Whether this is through the inclusion of keywords or backlinks, it’s my duty to create content that builds our clients’ authority and boosts their position in the SERPs. This begs the question, then: am I simply spurting out articles for robots?
Thankfully not. While the content I create is always authored with SEO in mind, this is never its sole focus, because it’s not just about how my writing performs under Google’s scrutiny, but also how it resonates with you, the reader.
However, as anyone in the biz will attest, the sweet spot between readability and rankability is often tricky to locate. Heck, this is why copywriters exist in the first place — it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
So if you’re struggling to create content that climbs the rankings while remaining a pleasure to read, I’m in the perfect position to lend a helping hand.
Writing SEO content — a brief history lesson
Way back in the early years of the internet, writing copy for SEO purposes wasn’t particularly difficult (not that I’d know, I was but a babe). Content creators would simply stuff their pages with keywords and this would be sufficient. And this wasn’t the only difference, either — to illustrate our point, let’s compare the 90’s to the 20’s:
1990s: Meta tags, such as meta keywords and meta descriptions, played a significant role in SEO. Search engines relied heavily on these tags to understand the content of a page. Mess up your meta tags, and your page won’t stand much of a chance in the SERPs.
Now: While meta tags are still relevant, they have a less direct impact on SEO. The search engines of today are far more sophisticated, relying on a mixture of on and off-page elements for ranking.
1990s: Link building was primarily focused on quantity rather than quality. Websites would exchange links or engage in link farms to improve their rankings.
Now: While link farms and exchanges still exist, quality, relevance, and natural link building are crucial for SERP success. Search engines consider the authority and trustworthiness of linking websites, and spammy link-building practices can (and often do) lead to penalties.
1990s: Content quality was often sacrificed for the sake of SEO, and keyword-stuffed pages were viewed as a necessary evil. Everyone was doing it, and engaging in the practice was the only way to compete. Black-hat techniques were also far easier to get away with — practices like ‘cloaking’ (showing different content to search engines and users) were commonplace, often going unpunished.
Now: High-quality, user-focused content is key. Search engines reward content that provides value to users, and factors like bounce rates and user engagement are considered in ranking algorithms. And yes, while keyword-stuffing is still rife, Google’s algorithms are getting pretty good at picking up on it.
1990s: Mobile optimisation was not a significant consideration, as most internet use was desktop-based.
Now: Mobile-friendliness is crucial. Google and other search engines prioritise mobile-friendly websites in search results, and responsive design is essential.
1990s: Search engine algorithms were less complex and updated less frequently.
Now: Search engine algorithms have become much more complex and undergo frequent updates. These updates, such as Google’s Panda, Penguin, and BERT, are designed to reward high-quality content and fight against spammy practices.
Much like the web as a whole during that time, SEO in the 90s was a little like the Wild West. It was a primitive field — the established conventions of search marketing were yet to be invented, and generally, it took little more than a cleverly-placed block of keywords to send a website shooting up the SERPs.
Of course, this isn’t to say that spammy websites are a thing of the past — only that the techniques used by unscrupulous SEOs have become more complex.
Now that we’ve established that keyword stuffing doesn’t work — and assuming you’re not the kind of person whose morals would align with using unapproved techniques — how can one create content that effectively impresses both readers and search engines?
How to write articles for SEO
Writing for the web doesn’t require a master’s degree in English literature, but there are rules and conventions that are best adhered to when creating content for SEO. Here are some tips from an SEO copywriting expert*
*Alex Daintith, Digital Copywriter at Seeker Digital
Rule 1: Pick one or two keywords and avoid SEO obsession
It’s always a good idea to begin every writing session with a good idea of the keywords you’re going to include. However, trying to cram 50 different words and phrases into your article will get messy. Instead, pick out one or two keywords, and slot them into your piece naturally. If they disrupt the flow or appear clunky or obtrusive, you’re doing it wrong. Generally, I find it easier to write my article and then insert the keywords afterward.
Try not to pay too much attention to arbitrary guidelines, either. Personally, I’m a huge fan of tools like SurferSEO, but I staunchly refuse to be a slave to its suggestions (however helpful they may be). If your SEO tool of choice is demanding that you include 58 instances of a keyword in an 800-word article, ignore it. Your first priority should always be your reader. And besides, if your article doesn’t produce the results you want, you can always tweak it afterward.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to deviate slightly from any keyword suggestions you choose to include. For instance, consider the keyword “affordable 4K television models for sale.” Integrating it into a sentence can be a challenge: “Here’s our list of the best affordable 4K television models for sale” might feel clunky and forced. Straying from this rigid keyword phrasing and opting for a more natural approach like, “Here’s our selection of top budget-friendly 4K TVs,” not only flows better but also aligns with your audience’s expectations.
Rule 2: Pour your heart and soul into the introduction
If I ever have to read another introduction that opens with “in today’s ever-evolving digital landscape” I’m going to puke.
The introduction is your chance to sell the article to the reader. It needs to answer the question “Is this worth my time” with an emphatic, explosive “YES!”. These crucial first few paragraphs are also a chance for you to showcase your unique ‘voice’. It’s an opportunity to inject a little personality into what may be a rather dull topic. Let’s be honest, topics like ecommerce, content marketing, or — dare I say it, SEO — are rarely seen as fun, but given the right approach, they certainly can be.
So the next time you’re writing an introduction, ask yourself:
- Does it do its job (introduce the topic and explain what will be covered)?
- When I read it back, does it sound like something only I could’ve written?
- Does it grab my attention and engage me?
- Does it include one (or more) of my keywords?
If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’, congratulations! Now all that’s left to do is write the article…Joys!
Rule 3: Keep things simple
If you’re writing a guide or how-to article try to avoid flowery language or tangential anecdotes. Your readers want answers, not an extensive lecture.
Your piece shouldn’t be devoid of all personality, but it’s crucial to read the room. If your article is a guide to fixing a kettle, try to resist the temptation of peppering in references to Homer’s Odyssey.
Try running your first draft through The Hemingway Editor and you’ll be able to view its Flesch score — a rating used to analyse the readability of text. Google doesn’t rank simpler articles higher per se, but the reading level of your article will indirectly influence SEO metrics like dwell time and bounce rate, so it’s worth keeping in mind. The score ranges from 0-100, with 100 being the easiest to understand.
Aim for a score of 60 or higher wherever possible, even if you’re writing about a particularly complex topic. Your audience wants clear answers, and it’s your job to provide them.
Rule 4: Use AI writing tools sparingly
There are loads of writing tools out there, and in my view, they’re there to be used. Despite the objections of many other copywriters, I’m all for ChatGPT, too. In fact, we at Seeker pride ourselves on our pioneering AI SEO solutions. However, there’s a fine line between using a tool and relying on it.
As someone who works with ChatGPT every day, I can spot an AI-generated article a mile away. They’re generic. Formulaic. Utterly bland. In essence, they’re everything you don’t want your article to be. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use ChatGPT — it’s a fantastic tool for sparking ideas, outlining initial plans, and offering suggestions — but please, don’t call yourself a copywriter if all you’re doing is writing a short prompt and hitting ‘enter’.
Google doesn’t penalise AI-generated articles. In fact, they even acknowledge that tools like ChatGPT are capable of producing helpful content capable of ranking well. Their main concern is one of intent. If the algorithm detects that your content is a generic, copy-and-paste job without any real value, it will impose penalties. Regrettably, in its current state, ChatGPT tends to generate such articles.
As it stands, we’re in a bit of a grey area. AI technology is so fresh that search engines are playing catchup. If you’re wondering whether your use of AI is appropriate, I’ll give you my two cents: If you’re using AI tools to enhance your content and increase your efficiency, you’re on the right track. If, however, you’re using it as a crutch, your time might be better spent honing your craft.
Still not sure about using AI? Check out our latest blog Why Embracing AI Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul!
Rule 5: Proofread your copy (properly)
I get it — most people use Grammarly nowadays — but proofreading still matters! Sure, your browser extension may be brilliant at dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but it won’t be able to tell you whether it sounds right.
One of the best ways to check whether the piece flows naturally is to read it aloud. This will help you identify any awkward sentences, unclear passages, or areas that need a little fine-tuning. Just keep in mind though; perfection is the enemy of progress. Try not to agonise over minute details. As long as it’s engaging and — even more importantly — has character, you’re onto a winner.
Bonus SEO Copywriter Tips
It’s all in the prompt: If you’re using ChatGPT to write parts of your article, make sure you provide it with clear, detailed instructions. For example, instead of requesting “Complete this section of the article I’ve provided”, say “Complete this section of the article using the tone of voice already established. Ensure your addition is engaging and entertaining, and feel free to use metaphors to break down the more advanced concepts”. The more precise your prompt, the better the output. Or, to use my old IT tutor’s favourite saying: “garbage in, garbage out!”.
Link Strategically: Internal and external links are essential for SEO, and it’s a fact that the more tightly interwoven your pages are through internal linking, the better you’ll do in the SERPs. Link to relevant pages within your website and credible external sources to enhance the user experience and build authority.
Mobile Optimisation: Ensure your content is mobile-friendly. With the increasing use of smartphones, mobile optimisation is crucial for SEO. Use responsive design and test your content on various devices to ensure it looks and functions well.
Structure Matters: Organise your content with a clear and logical structure. Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up text and make it more scannable. This not only helps readers but also pleases search engines. Try to use your keywords in your headings wherever possible, too. Search engines give greater importance to words found within headings, considering them as higher in the hierarchical structure.
Quality Over Quantity: Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. A single well-researched, informative, and engaging article can often perform better than several mediocre ones. Prioritise quality content that provides real value to your readers.
While it’s true that you can’t please everyone, the nature of SEO requires that your content resonates with both human readers and Google’s algorithm — a tricky balance to strike. We make no bones about it — achieving this balance can be challenging, but by following the guidance offered above, it should be that little bit easier!