“If you build it, they will come,” while a great philosophy for attracting former professional baseball players to your cornfield, is not the most effective when applied to websites. The world of search engine optimization (SEO) has changed dramatically since the early days of the web. Techniques that once allowed people to game the system are no longer effective. At best, they prevent your site from being found in search results, and at worst, they get you blacklisted by search engines. If you want to improve SEO copywriting for your website, then it’s important to understand how search engine optimization works today.
Keywords still matter
Back in the early days of SEO when you could get away with all sorts of website trickery, keyword stuffing was a very common practice. However, search engines soon got wise to this behavior and no longer reward writers for cramming as many subtle keyword variations on a page as possible.
But it’s not time to do away with keywords just yet. They still send the signal to search engines that your website answers a particular query (a little more on that later). When creating or updating your website copy, start with a list of keywords you want to include for each page. This list doesn’t need to include every keyword under the sun – pick 1-3 to be your focus.
Another SEO change involves site tags – these are elements like your title tag, meta description, image alt tags, etc. where you’d typically include keywords in order to tell the search engine what the webpage was about. These days, the only places where you MUST include keywords are the title tag and body content. If someone searches “garden supplies,” they’re more likely to click on a result that has “garden supplies” somewhere in the page title. Including the focus keyword in your meta description, headline, and URL if possible is also helpful because again, it communicates to the searcher that your content is the answer to their question.
Write for end users
Let’s say you type “gardening” into a search engine. You’re probably not looking for a definition of the word. It’s more likely that you want to know things like what plants are best for your climate, what vegetables to plant in the summer vs. winter, or even what tools are good for beginner gardeners. Instead of focusing on what you think search engines want in terms of your site, think about what users want. What question is your audience trying to answer when they perform a search? If your content can answer their query, search engines are more likely to serve your site as a top result on search pages.
How do you identify what questions customers are asking? There are a few tools you can use:
1. Google Analytics – Search Console
Setting up the Search Console function in Google Analytics can show you what organic queries are leading people to your website, which gives ideas for topics to cover
2. Moz.com, SEMRush
The keyword research feature that these tools provide is essential for SEO copywriting. This allows you to see the number of average monthly searches a term receives, how competitive the term is, and what sites are currently ranking in the top positions for that term.
3. Social media
What questions are people asking you over and over again on your social media channels? What questions do they frequently ask competitors? Make sure the content on your site answers these questions.
Topic clusters are the new black
Back to keywords: Google has gotten smart. Way, way smart. Because Google and other search engines have gotten better at identifying the relationship between pieces of content and related queries, it’s now a good idea to create your website based on topic clusters. Topic clusters are built around a central page – think the hub of a wheel – and other, related terms are spokes off that page. Because they’re organized in a logical, orderly fashion, search engines can more easily crawl sites designed in this way and understand how the pages are related.
Let’s say you have an app that helps people improve their gardening skills. Based on the common queries you determined when considering user intent, you can create a topic map. The sub-topics you draw from “gardening” provide the framework for other pages and pieces of content on your site. Topic clusters are a good way to improve your authority on a certain topic, which again improves your rankings in search results pages. Below is an example of what a topic map for “gardening” might look like:
The hub page, “Gardening,” would contain a broad overview of the content that can be found on the sub-pages. Each sub-page should be linked to the hub page and go in-depth on a particular topic – so the “Indoor” page would be all about indoor gardening techniques and tips. Your site can have multiple hub pages that answer broad specific user queries, and then drill down to hyper-specific and in-depth sub-pages that relate and link back to each of those hubs.
While this is obviously just the tip of the SEO iceberg, it’s important to remember that SEO is an ever-changing practice. As search engines continue to evolve and improve their capabilities, the way that we write web copy must evolve, too.