SEO Copywriting: Words Matter

Dale McManus
June 26, 2020
Read time: 4 minutes

The difference between getting a purchase or a pass from customers often depends on the quality of your SEO copywriting. Historically, many businesses have relied on copywriters to drive sales with persuasive and engaging language.

Classic masters like Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, and Gary Halbert have all shed deep insight into their craft, and while many of their principles hold true today, any digital content marketer will tell you that the landscape has shifted considerably, thanks in no small part to Google.

Search engine optimization (SEO) didn’t begin with Google, but regardless of the term’s origins, the vast majority of businesses are using it to rank on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs); it is, after all, the most popular search engine in the world.

What is SEO Copywriting and Why Does it Matter?

SEO copywriting is a form of digital writing that utilizes keywords, aims to help webpages rank higher in SERPs, and ideally drives qualified traffic to your business. Unlike traditional copywriting, SEO copywriters have two primary audiences: readers and search engines.

The copywriter must make sure that the writing is not only readable and engaging to people, but also easily discoverable by web crawlers that scan the internet.

If you write without considering SEO, it’s unlikely that your webpages be found organically by readers because search engines won’t be recommending it.

In its early days, the world of SEO was a bit like the wild west. Many search engines were seemingly vying to be on top, Yahoo was still a serious contender with Google, and making optimizations was simplistic compared to now.

This simplicity didn’t necessarily serve the readers, unfortunately, because copywriters would be rewarded for tactics that are now considered black-hat, such as keyword stuffing and purchasing backlinks, to name a few.

In other words, the SEO of the past resulted in a lot of copywriting that web crawlers promoted but were hardly readable or valuable to users.

Google recognized this.

It knew that the key to gaining and keeping more users on its site was to make sure that the algorithm only recommended relevant and valuable webpages.

And so, update after update, we now have the Google of today that is even capable of recognizing search intent.

Slowly but surely, the goal of SEO copywriting has steered closer and closer to its non-digital roots: persuading potential customers with head-turning copy and high-quality content.

SEO Copywriting Techniques That Readers and Crawlers Love

Create Relevant Titles

One of the most important places to insert your keywords is in the title-tags of webpages. Content management software (CMS) like WordPress usually makes this easy to accomplish.

Keyword placement is a priority, but don’t just throw them in carelessly. Take your time when making your titles so that they are as optimized as they are interesting.

The length of your title tags should be restricted to 60 characters or less because that’s usually where Google cuts off the title with ellipses.

Don’t Forget About Subheadings

From an SEO perspective, keywords appearing in your page’s subheadings don’t have as great an impact as when they appear in title tags, but they should still be there, even just for the sake of making the page easy to navigate.

Try to make your subheadings topical to the upcoming section of your page. If done well, a reader should be able to get a sense of what your page is about just from reading the subheadings.

This becomes even more relevant when you consider the fact that most readers don’t actually read full articles--they scan them.

Many articles contain a lot of fluff, so scanning the article is a good way to get past that and arrive at the parts that really interest them. But if your subheadings aren’t representative of the content they precede, readers may just bounce from the page.

Don’t Waste Your Introductions

To all you bloggers out there: pay attention.
There are many ways to start an article, but if you want to improve its chances for ranking on SERPs, you’ll want to use the intro as an opportunity to mention relevant keywords.

Many search engines use the intros as a description of the content, so make sure you write it in a way that sells the reader on the rest of the article.

Be Specific in Your Terminology

One of the ways to distinguish between quality vs subpar copy is to examine how specific the wording is. Good copywriting will use specific terms that resonate with their specific audience while bland copy tends to use generic terms that don’t necessarily cater to anyone.

This actually relates to the use of keywords. When writing copy, don’t throw in keywords simply because they have a high monthly volume.

They have to serve a purpose for the reader. If a keyword is used in your copy but it isn’t relevant, you’ll just confuse readers and lower your webpage’s perceived authority.

Use Synonyms to Add Keyword Variety

When trying to rank high in SERPs, it’s understandable for copywriters to be tempted to use the same keyword over and over again in a piece of text.

Don’t do that, especially if the keyword has synonyms. Search engines like Google have learned how to recognize contextually related keywords, so there’s really no need to use the same exact term ad nauseam.

For instance, if I were writing about “How to become an SEO expert,” I could mix things up throughout the article by using other terms like “SEO wiz,” “SEO pro,” or “SEO professional.”

The Words You Use Matter More Now Than Ever

The jury is still out regarding whether or not SEO copywriting rules will ever go completely back to its traditional copywriting roots, but regardless, many lessons from the bygone days still hold true.

You should still write with language that’s geared towards your target audience. Titles and headlines should still cause people to do double-takes. And instead of prioritizing creativity, you should focus on getting a sale. Or to quote Ogilvy:

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

Many people find SEO Copywriting to be tasteless and bland because you’re writing in part for a machine, but if you’re creative enough, you should be able to make your copy interesting.

And don’t forget that you and Google still have the same end-goal in mind: adding value to the user.

Dale McManus has helped tens of thousands of people from around the world create beautiful blog, portfolio, and business websites with their easy to follow guides and tutorials at

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