So you want to be a content writer. (Or maybe not, but your boss is making you do it anyway.) The only true way to become a decent writer is to practice, practice, practice. But you can't ask your boss, or team, or entire company to wait around while you do grammar exercises.
What can you do, starting now, to ensure your copy is up to snuff?Here's the first secret to becoming an expert writer: not all content writers are expert wordsmiths. In fact, many who find themselves in a writing role haven't been trained in web writing best practices or grammar or composition. Training isn't necessarily a requirement for online writers, but it sure makes it easier to get results.
If you're in this boat, and you're struggling in this role that's been thrust upon you, never fear. We'll reveal some secrets about SEO copywriting that will help you create optimized content. Here are some tips from myself (I also entered this role unexpectedly!) and from other SEO/copywriting professionals.
How to Write Kick-Ass Content (That's Also Optimized for SEO)
1. Start by Identifying a Central Keyword for Your Page/Post
This will require some keyword research in Google's Keyword Tool, or whichever resource you're most familiar with. A Great Keyword will have these three qualities:
- Low competition/ranking difficulty
- Moderate search volume
- Highly relevant to your company's offerings AND your customers' interests
I advise choosing a long-tail keyword - it will help you keep your writing focused and concise.
2. Your Audience Comes First
Who are you writing for: your customers or yourself?
You aren't the person you need to appeal to in your writing. You're trying to appeal to your prospects and potential customers, and that means talking about them and their problems. Don't try to sell anything just yet, because they won't be interested.
Talk about their pain points and their frustrations. If you've built your buyer personas, you'll know exactly what hurts, what motivates them, and what makes them tick. Use this information to your advantage.
We all know the ultimate goal of your content writing efforts is to get more customers. I know it, you know it, and your customer knows it. However, content that does nothing but sell is a huge turn-off for all Internet users.
As it turns out, when you stop talking about your company, potential customers will become much more interested in doing business with you. Talk about your customers' concerns, wants, and goals. People's favorite subject is themselves - make it clear you're trying to help them and watch how fast you gain an audience.
3. Everything Is Relative Relevant
Remember that keyword you chose up in #1? That's the focus of your writing for the day. Every sentence should be helpful, either directly (telling them how something works) or indirectly (using an analogy to make your point clear).
Images should be relevant to the paragraph immediately before or after. Links should be relevant to your topic, the sentence in which they're placed, and their anchor text. Your CTAs should be directly related as well.
Everything should be relevant to the page or post. The less fluff in your website copy, the better.
4. Make Your Points OBVIOUS
Dancing around the main point is a great way to make a college essay meet page number requirements. It's not so great when your audience is actually trying to solve a problem with the information you're providing.
The average person's online attention span is approximately eight seconds (an entire second less than a goldfish). That means you have eight seconds to convey what your copy is about and how it will be useful for your visitor. After that, if they don't find what they're looking for, they're gone.
- Choose your title, headlines, meta description, and URL to make your subject immediately obvious
- Bold important information
- Use bullet points to lay out important lists
- Emphasize & return to your point in multiple places throughout your copy
Above all, Internet readers want content that's scannable. They want to know immediately if your webpage has the information they need. If it does, they'll hang out longer and read it more closely. However, you absolutely NEED to hook them in those first eight seconds.
5. Strategic Keyword Use
Rich, yet light. Dense, yet fluffy. It's like the most counter-intuitive cake recipe you've ever tried to follow. True content masters can balance these contradictions to craft information-dense copy that's easy to absorb, search engine optimized, and leaves you feeling like you can do your job just a little bit better than before.
A single keyword should be used 2-5 times on a page. Each page or blog post should only have one associated targeted keyword. However, keywords should be used naturally - don't force them into every other sentence just for the sake of it.
The more you practice writing with SEO in mind, the easier it will be to use your keywords as you go.
6. Write Your Post, THEN Optimize
When you're just starting out, it's most important to get the information down. Don't even think about optimization - think about what information matters to your audience, and what will help them solve a problem that they're facing. Speak to the person behind the screen. Once you've done that, go back through and make sure you've got everything on this list:
- Attention-grabbing title that uses your chosen keyword
- At least one H2 heading with your keyword
- Short, relevant meta description that describes your post
- In-text links to helpful content - both yours and from third parties
- Relevant CTA to a valuable offer (in-text and image-based)
- If you haven't used your keyword yet, pick out 2-5 places in your content where it would make sense to use it
- Every sentence is valuable and relevant - whether it entertains, informs, or persuades
- Identify opportunities within your content to insert additional relevant long-tail keywords. At the same time, DO NOT stuff your post full of keywords just for the fun of it. Google doesn't like that.
- Does the writing itself compel the reader to take action?
- Did you write with concern for your customers' needs, not your own?
This list ensures you're writing for people first, but also that your content is SEO-approved. Google rewards content that is unique, valuable, and written for humans (not search engines).
The Biggest Secret? Content Writing Is All About Your Customer
Some people have trouble stepping out of their company role and stepping into the shoes of the buyer. Content writers and other marketing professionals occupy a unique place in the business - we're almost like an advocate for the customers' interests. We create a bridge between the company's goals (revenue, growth, influence) and the needs of the buyer (affordable, high-quality solution).
After all, if a company loses sight of its customers in the name of profit, it will soon have neither.