One of the revolutions brought about by the birth of the internet is certainly writing for the web. What is SEO writing? What are the objectives behind this strategy?
In this article, we’ll attempt to answer these questions, starting from the very origins of search engines and looking at the factors that are most relevant when writing a blog post for SEO. Finally, we’ll take a look at the differences from optimization for voice search.
In a previous post, we talked about contemporary copywriting, introducing the concept of SEO copywriting. By providing the opportunity to reach a large and diverse audience, the Internet is an effective marketing tool. As such, it has changed the way we write online; SEO copywriting is how we have adapted to this new medium of communication.
SEO writing consists of writing optimized text for search engines, in order to improve the positioning of a site in the search engine results page (SERP) and increase its visibility. Search engines are the reason SEO copywriting exists. So, before we go any further, let’s briefly review the stages in the birth of search engines.
The origins of search engines and SEO writing
History teaches us that the first prototype search engine dates from 1990: it is Archie (from the word “archive”), invented by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University. Archie was limited to cataloging files contained on public FTP servers on the Internet. Arguably Archie was the starting point that led us to search engines today.
In 1994, immediately after the birth of the World Wide Web, Aliweb (Archie Like Indexing for the Web) was launched with the aim of collecting all existing sites in the world, including short descriptions of pages and a few keywords. With the increase of sites and the consequent growth of the web, new search engines began to develop according to the demands of the times.
Also in 1994, two Stanford University students, Jerry Yang and David Filo, created a list of their favorite leisure sites, breaking them down into categories and subcategories. Their idea was successful on campus, which led them to push it on the web: thus Yahoo was born.
The 90s were a fundamental period for the development of SEO. However, it was around 1997 before there was any talk of website optimization, which would involve structure, texts and images so that they could be easily found by search engines. Today, the term “search engine optimization” is still attributed to John Audette (searchengineland.com).
Around the same time, the world’s most widely used search engine may have been born: Google.
Google, initially called “Backrub”, was invented by two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, with the aim of cataloging and making accessible as many websites as possible. Their Network theory was based on the concept that the sites with the most links were the most important. This was the basis for the founding of Google in 1998 and the creation of algorithms capable of identifying and positioning websites in the SERPs.
SEO writing comes from the need to write following website optimization guidelines. What are the secrets and useful tools for writing online content?
SEO copywriting: 3 factors to consider before you start
A recent Microsoft study lists SEO and writing as one of the 5 most popular marketing skills in 2020, making SEO writing a must-have tool for any digital marketing strategy. Arguably the blog post is the most complete and complex expression of SEO writing. The goal of writing a blog post is to create valuable content that is engaging and within SEO parameters.
Before you start to write, it is important to make a keyword to look for. This allows us to understand which words are most searched for by our target audience and identify topics to implement in our content strategy. Semrush or Google Keywords are just a few of the many keyword research tools, which need to be done regularly in order to keep up with the latest search trends.
However, it is not enough to just focus on keyword research. In fact, according to Hubspot, writing blog posts related to your activities of interest and on the subjects what interests you is what allows you to gain relevance and authority, thus increasing your ranking in search results. Start from a main topic (group of subjects) and divide it into sub-themes (content clusters) which will be discussed in other blog posts in order to create a relationship between all the content.
Another factor to consider in SEO copywriting is the user intention, that is, the needs behind the user’s research. As with selling, understanding the interests and needs of users is essential for writing relevant content that directly and precisely answers their questions. What are our persona buyers looking for? What keywords do they use for their searches?
Analyzing user intent means putting yourself in their shoes to offer them the content they need, thus also optimizing the user experience. In this regard, Google analyzed the user’s intention, defining the moments when a person relies on Internet research to meet an immediate need:
- the “I want to know” moments, when he’s doing cognitive research, but not necessarily with the intention of buying something;
- the “I want to go” moments, when looking for a store or thinking about buying a product nearby;
- the “I want to do” moments, when he wants to know how to perform a certain action or try something new;
- the “I want to buy” times, when he wants to buy a product and needs help figuring out who, when and where to buy it.
This analysis makes it possible to understand how important it is to be present on the web and to offer quality content in line with the different needs and micro-moments of users. SEO copywriting should focus not only on the optimization rules, but also on people, which is why it should be engaging, clear, and straightforward. How to combine these two needs?
The characteristics of SEO writing
We’ve looked at the factors to consider before starting to write a blog post, but how should it be structured to be considered optimized?
The first element to consider is the main Title, which in SEO is identified with H1. The title should be clear and concise and should contain the main keyword. It is important to note that H1 is generally different from SEO title (title tag), the clickable title that appears in search results, which should be short and persuasive, approximately 60/70 characters long.
The SEO title is accompanied by the Meta Description, a text of approximately 160 characters that describes the subject of the blog post and serves to convince the user to click on the link. The H1 should be followed by an introduction that introduces the topics that will be covered in the blog post. The introduction should be clear and describe the path that will be taken to the conclusion, to encourage the user to continue reading.
In SEO writing, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs of the text should follow a hierarchy based on their relevance. For example, main paragraphs have H2 as the heading and subparagraphs are classified as H3. This subdivision is important not only for SEO optimization, but also because it visually organizes the text, making it easier to read to keep the reader’s attention.
As for the conclusion, it should sum up the main message of the blog post and it is important that it contains a compelling message. call to action, depending on the objectives you want to achieve (eg comment, download content, share, buy, subscribe). The conclusion can therefore be food for thought for the user, can inspire him and encourage him to dig deeper into the subject.
These are just a few guidelines for writing a blog post. However, SEO is constantly evolving to meet new behaviors and new user needs. Voice search is the most recent demonstration of this evolution: what influence does it have on copywriting?
How to optimize a text for voice search?
The increasing use of speech recognition devices has changed the way we search the web. To react to this new user behavior, new content optimization strategies must be adopted. This means that the copywriting must also adapt and keep up with new SEO entries.
Google voice search requires a clear and concise answer. The biggest challenge is to formulate a concise text from a question-answer perspective (e.g. following the structure of the FAQ) that includes long tail keywords. According to a Backlinko search, a voice search result consists of 29 words on average.
Another interesting aspect of this study concerns the main keyword: only 1.7% of search results contain the keyword in the title tag. This means that by analyzing the content beforehand, Google offers a result that can respond more consistently to the query, regardless of the presence or absence of the keyword in the title tag. So we can say that the optimization of the title tag that we talked about previously does not have the same relevance for the SEO of voice search.
Additionally, we have to take into account that voice search is much more direct and requires a familiar, more natural, and straightforward tone than that used for traditional content search.
Since most voice searches are done through a smartphone, here are some tips for creating user-friendly and mobile-optimized content:
- use short titles (around 7 words);
- make paragraphs no longer than 2 or 3 sentences;
- use sub-paragraphs and bulleted and numbered lists (Forbes.com).
Writing from an SEO perspective has positive consequences on the positioning and visibility of a brand online, but the biggest risk in this activity is to leave more room for the rules than for the final reading. The goal to be reached is the user; content is the way to involve them, capture their interest and bring them closer to the brand. Writing with these concepts in mind is essential for optimizing your strategy.