SEO Copywriting: The Five Essential Elements to Focus On

image of Simple SEO Copywriting

When I first started Copyblogger in 2006, I was almost militantly against on-page search optimization. Seems strange, since I’d been a successful student of SEO since 2000.

It was because I saw all these people fretting over keywords like it’s 1999, and yet they had no links. Their content was weak. Their sites weren’t trusted.

You can’t optimize something that’s dead in the water. So my initial goal was to get people to focus on content that attracted attention and links first. Only then do you have something you can make better (that’s what optimize means, naturally).

Fours years later, it seems things have swung in the opposite direction for some. Social media “experts” maintain that SEO doesn’t matter because search traffic just “happens.”

Yes, search traffic “happens” if you produce unique content and don’t make it impossible to find. But the “right” search traffic doesn’t just happen, not unless you’re lucky (which simply means you don’t know what you’re doing).

This article is designed to help you know how to tell search engines what you’re talking about is the same as what people are looking for. That’s all SEO really is.

And yet . . .

I feel compelled to quickly discuss the things you need to focus on first. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz gives us a quick list of the stuff that must come prior to on-page optimization, so I’ll repeat those here with my own commentary:

Accessibility – If search engines can’t see your content within the code, your page can’t be indexed and ranked. This is why our StudioPress division created the Genesis Design Framework for WordPress, and why we obsesses over making it better. Code matters.

Content – Now that the code structure is right, we come to what people actually want. Create great content and the people, sharing, and links will follow. And then you hit the bonus round: Google gives you even more goodness.

User Experience – The easier your site makes it to consume and share your content, the better you’ll end up doing SEO-wise. People don’t consume or share content that creates barriers, sometimes even if only a little.

Marketing – To paraphrase Rand on this one, spreading the word is often more important than being right, being honest, or being valuable. I like to say promoting your content is a virtuous necessity. Whatever works for you, but do get the word out.

Okay, now let’s move on to the five areas to focus on with your web page, blog post, online press release, whatever . . . they’re all the same in the eyes of Google.

Five SEO copywriting elements that matter

Before we get into this, let me share a few strategic considerations.

When I’m building an authority site, I don’t care about optimizing everything I write. I use a lot of metaphors and pop culture references instead of keywords to get people reading and linking to build the overall trust of the domain. Then when I want to rank well for something, like copywriting, or seo copywriting, or landing pages, my job is much easier.

If you’re a news blogger (or newspaper), things are different. You want to optimize everything as best as possible up front, then move on. Different strokes for different folks.

That said, here we go.

1. Title

Whether you optimize up-front or later, you at minimum need to know what keywords you’re targeting and include them in the title of your content. It’s generally accepted that the closer to the front of the title your keywords are, the better. But the key is that they appear in the title somewhere.

The original title of this post contained the keyword phrase “SEO copywriting,” but it was positioned at the end of the title. That’s because I went with the more compelling headline first and foremost. But I can serve an alternate title in the title tag (which is the snippet of code Google actually pulls the title from) thanks to a post feature in Genesis (also available with the All in One SEO plugin for WordPress).

So, I can always enter a more search-optimized alternate title later, such as:

SEO Copywriting: The 5 Essential Elements

The emphasis on keywords in the title makes practical sense from a search engine standpoint. When people search for something, they’re going to want to see the language they used reflected back at them in the results. Nothing mysterious about that.

Having keywords in your title is also important when people link to you. When your keywords are there, people are more likely to link to you with the keywords in the anchor text. This is an important factor for Google to determine that a particular page is in fact about a particular subject.

You should try to keep the length of your title under 72 characters for search purposes. This will ensure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.

2. Meta Description

SEO copywriting is not just about ranking. It’s also about the presentation of your content in a search engine. The meta description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title, which influences whether or not you get the click.

It’s debatable whether keywords in your meta description influence rank, but it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t. You want to lead off your meta description with the keyword phrase and succinctly summarize the page as a reassurance to the searcher that your content will satisfy what they’re looking for.

Try to keep the meta description under 165 characters so the full description is visible in the search result. Again, you can create a meta description in WordPress right in the posting area with Thesis or All in One SEO.

3. Content

Unique and frequently updated content makes search engines happy. But you know that part. For search optimization purposes (and just general reader-friendliness) your content should be tightly on-topic and centered on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrases.

It’s generally accepted that very brief content may have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content. So you’ll want to have a content body length of at least 300 words.

It might also help to bold the first occurrence of a keyword phrase, or include it in a bulleted list, but I usually don’t get hung up on that. It’s also debatable whether including keywords in subheads helps with ranking, but again, it doesn’t matter – subheads are simply a smart and natural place to include your keyword phrase, since that’s what the page is about.

Which brings us to . . .

4. Keyword Frequency

Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keywords appear on the page. Keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page.

It’s generally accepted that keyword frequency impacts ranking (and that makes logical sense). Keyword density, as some sort of “golden” ratio, does not. But the only way to make sense of an appropriate frequency is via the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the content, so density is still a metric you can use.

In other words, the only way to tell if your repetition of keywords is super or spammy is to measure that frequency against the overall length of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% could find you guilty of keyword stuffing, and your page could be penalized by Google.

You don’t need to mindlessly repeat keywords to optimize. In fact, if you do, you’re likely to achieve the opposite result.

5. Page Links

Linking is the fundamental basis of the web. Search engines want to know you’re sufficiently “connected” with other pages and content, so linking out to other pages matters when it comes to search engine optimization.

Here are some “rules of thumb” for linking based on generally accepted best practices:

  • Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy
  • Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content
  • Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites
  • Link with naturally relevant anchor text

Again, these are guidelines related to current best practices. Don’t get hung up on rules; focus on the intent behind what search engines are looking for – quality search results for people.

Yes, there’s other stuff . . .

There are other elements as well, such as URL structure and keywords, keywords in image alt files, tags and categories, and various other minutia (here’s a list of on-page elements and their varied importance). If you focus on the five areas above, however, you’re covering the vital elements of effective on-page optimization.

This is an excerpt from a free 28-page report called How to Create Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines. To get the whole story, head over to the SEO Copywriting Made Simple page to instantly download the full updated PDF.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Not a ninja by any means, but the effect of alt/title attributes on image elements seems very poorly understood, and definitely underused.

    I don’t always add appropriate image attributes myself, despite having written a few articles on how important they are.

  2. Dave, I try to use good alt image text, but from a keyword standpoint, I find that it mostly gets you noticed by Google images more than the traditional serps. I’d love to hear what others think on that topic.

    • Brian, I’m puzzled to find that you actually don’t optimize the blog post url title. You optimize the page title and blog post (at least for this post we’re reading now) but what about the url?

      Also, don’t forget about keyword proximity and keyword prominence. Key aspects to keep in mind, I heard it helps rank higher on Google :)

  3. Thanks Brian, you’ve got the touch for making this less formidable to those of us not in the big-biz marketing world.

  4. It is frequently advised that alt attribute of images help seo but I am a doubtful about that. Images are generally searches for the purpose of images and not content .. even if the content pops up there are very few chances that the user will get engaged ?? Does alt attr words pop up in regular searches too ?

    Please advice.

  5. Oops Too many typos. Hope you dont mind :)

  6. I’ve been doing SEO for small businesses for a while. It helps to target the proper term you are aiming for.

    Navigation, photos, alt text, etc., ARE important and mostly overlooked.

    Also, using related terms instead of the main term you are targeting works well.

  7. LOL “instead of”=”in addition to” need more coffee!

    • This is a good article. We’ve updated all Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions for all categories of our webshop. And our brand pages. There are some brands we really want to rank for, for example King Louie. We’re also updating the product pages. When we add the brand to the products, the brand automatically will display in the Meta Title. Thanks!

  8. Hey Brian,

    I did a search for this article in Google and didn’t see a meta description. I also looked at the page source and didn’t find it.

    Am I missing something? Or have you just not added it yet?

    Just trying to look at this article as an SEO example to follow, is all :)

    Oleg

  9. This is a rave for Thesis. I really like the option of the Meta title and description. Google is kind enough to use it too. This taught me to make sure I choose what goes into the excerpt box at wordpress.com blogs too because Google will use them.

  10. @Oleg as far as I have read about and experienced SEO meta description playys almost zero role in SEO of a page. The reason seems that people try to trick Google with keyword intensive meta description..Though I might be drastically wrong. ;) Open to sugestion

  11. Hi

    It’s very refreshing to see that you have included valuable content as an area to focus on. I’ve seen far too many affiliate marketing products based on blogging say to just outsource all the content and target the keywords and not to worry that it’s just respun article content.

    Very much chicken and the egg, no point getting loads of traffic if they won’t visit again due to crap generic content.

    Andrew

  12. As a new blogger and not a “coder” by any stretch of the imagination, a lot of SEO stuff is over my head. (Reading Copyblogger articles has helped a lot though.) In this article you mentioned the importance of links within the blogs. I believe you mean links in general to any websites, not just your own, correct? Does it count more to link to websites that are established and popular?
    thanks!
    Jim

  13. Oleg, my reason for writing this post is not to rank (I’m already top 3 for SEO copywriting). There’s another reason I’m writing this series, which you’ll see next week.

    And even when I’m trying to rank, I never optimize up front, just like I said in the article. My goal was to get the content out to you. I can always add a meta description later, but right now, I want some lunch. :)

  14. Jim, it helps to link to trusted sites, which is what you would want to do anyway. It helps to cross-link your own content. It can hurt to link to spammy sites. It really is a common sense thing.

  15. Thesis is certainly on my shortlist of purchases this year, but in the mean time the rest of this info is on par with other stuff that I’ve read.

  16. Thanks Brian. And trusted sites by Google are ones that are established and popular. Got it. I’m a little fuzzy on what it means to cross-link. Sorry if that’s too elementary a question!

  17. Sorry Jim, cross-linking means linking to other related content on your own site (contrasted with out-linking, which is linking to other sites).

  18. Hey Brian…

    One other easy tip for people to follow is… Use the most relevant synonyms of the keywords and keyphrases.

    One of the easiest ways for people to find they most relevant synonyms is by using the Google Keyword Tool. Type in the keyword or keyphrase then sort by relevance…

    Google lists in order what they feel the most relevant keywords and keyphrases are to the search topic.

  19. Brian, good point. I’ve never had a problem with synonyms though, because they tend to naturally happen if you’re writing naturally. :)

  20. It’s not debatable whether the keywords meta tag matters: it doesn’t. Google and Bing have declared they do not factor the keywords meta tag into their rankings.

    The meta description should also have keywords, but be written to reinforce the idea that the title link should be clicked on in search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, write your description as though it were an ad or a teaser (which, in fact, it is).

    Page links can happen automatically, increasing your rankings and PageRank for zero effort. WordPress plugins like Crosslinker and YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) help a lot with this.

  21. This is a great overview of SEO copywriting for newbies, and a great refresher for everyone else. You covered all of the key points.

    SEO has certainly changed over the years. I remember a decade ago, I could write a page of copy on a website and have it rank within days. Now that search engines are more complex, it seems to take a little longer for newer sites to rank well.

    My blog has been up for 7 months, but I’ve only been writing regularly for 2 months and most of my traffic comes from social networks. I know over time, because I’m following the practices laid out above, I’ll get more traffic from the search engines, but for now I’m working on building solid, unique content and gaining credibility with my readers. And, hopefully getting plenty of quality inbound links in return.

  22. Michael, yep. That’s why I didn’t bother to mention meta keywords… They’ve gone the way of the dinosaurs.

  23. Brian… Saying “you have a problem finding synonyms let alone writing naturally…” is like saying “the government doesn’t know how to spend money…”… ;-)

  24. Thank you very much for this excellent summary of on-page SEO!

    Just last night, I was explaining to a client how to do all this stuff. Now I have a place to send my clients, without them having to buy yet another infoproduct, or me creating my own tutorials for them.

    Bookmarking this right now.

  25. Hi Brian – just to add to your point re Alt tags… these aren’t just for Google, they are for people too. E.g. for people that are blind that use text-to-speech software when surfing the web, a good descriptive alt tag explains what’s in the picture when they are unable to see it.

  26. Andy, absolutely… That’s what alt tags are for, and they should always be used for that purpose. My only question was whether they are also something about in the context of seo. Not using them was never an option.

  27. Brian: Just want to say that I LOVE your site/blog/insights. Great stuff, you will continue to be a resources that I use and recommend. Us recovering attorneys must stick together!

  28. “When people search for something, they’re going to want to see the language they used reflected back at them in the results. ”

    Great insight Brian, especially the note on titles and their relation to searcher behavior. Often left astray in the approach to SEO copywriting, the usability aspect of these best practices has to be considered.

    I generally reflect a unique page title, specifically the keyword phrase, in my primary headline (h1) to create a visual connection for the user. If you think about it from a searcher’s perspective, when you click on a link from the organic search results and the (hopefully) engaging headline that smacks you between the eyes is highly relevant to the link you clicked on, you’ve created a visual relationship that will likely increase conversion.

    Not an exact science in every instance obviously, but if we are indeed writing for the people at the core of how we approach SEO, and really any copywriting for that matter, then we have to be mindful of consistency and relevancy.

  29. Brian – I know, and I was slightly off topic, as this is an SEO post. Nowadays I don’t see evidence of alt tags having an impact on SEO – but as you say, they can help drive traffic from Google images… whether it was relvant traffic is another question.

  30. Thank you, this is a very good summary of the most important SEO-topics to take care of.
    I suggest that everyone who wants to deepen onpage SEO to look at the topics you mentioned in your last point (URL-structure, image tags etc).

  31. How many links should the average blog, are you saying one for every 120 words? Do you really think meta keywords are gone…

  32. Links out.

    They probably influence rankings. But more importantly, sites that link out a lot tend to get links back if they’re any good.

  33. Brian, I have a question regarding the description meta tag. We had an SEO audit done a while back and were told to utilize the description meta as a call to action, rather than another place to “stuff” (I know that’s not what you’re advocating) keywords or focus mainly on keywords. What is your opinion on using action words up front in meta descriptions to get the clicks instead of trying to get main keywords up front?

  34. I may be in way over my head here, like some others, but whether or not SEO loves my meta description, when it comes up on a search, I like the way I can control what YOU see, not what some search engine picks out.

    Meanwhile, from our twitter lessons, we’ve learned we can say what visitors need to see in those first few characters. Call to action from whom about what.

    Thesis opened that opportunity and I’m going to run with it. end of rant

  35. Ben:

    I’m not Brian obviously, but I’ve always adhered to a specific methodology when it comes to meta description text.

    I think you need to have a healthy balance between compelling text and keywords. Keywords are helpful for conversions because of bolding in the SERPs. In conjunction with a well-written and formatted page title, you certainly present the relevancy and value of clicking on your link versus others. As far as action-oriented text, it has to make sense in the context of the site, industry and particular page. For an e-commerce site it makes sense to me to include a call to action in your meta description if the page itself lends to a specific conversion that you can easily convey in your page title and description text. I wouldn’t recommend a blanket approach, as an about us page for example may not be the optimal place to include a CTA.

  36. Let me clarify one item:

    SERPs bolding text in the meta descrip certainly can increase the likelihood, or chance perhaps, of conversions. The more immediate benefit is increasing number of click thrus.

    Now back to your regular programming.

  37. Thanks Brett, I completely agree about the no blanket approach and have been using CTAs only if appropriate. Seems to be working. But most of the meta I work on is for info articles, so it’s just a lot of “read new study on XYZ”

  38. I enjoyed reading this post as opposed to the metaphor-heavy posts and the pop culture ones you mentioned. I think they’re fun and a breath of fresh air but do sometimes feel a bit gimmicky. Loving your return to good, old-fashioned writing that’s chocabloc with handy and actionable tips.

    Would that I were an seo ninja, but at least I’m married to one:) Well, maybe not a ninja but at least a solid karate chopper. I’ve written a few posts about the odd things people searched for and then arrived at my blog from. Things like “the best way to steal a car in day light” which is not a topic I’ve ever broached. Very odd. But then, there are some odd people out there.

  39. Great post that summarizes the basics of SEO in one spot with enough detail to allow people to understand what to do. So many times these SEO posts are so difficult to understand and when I want to share some of them with clients, I can’t, because they have no clue what is being talked about.

  40. very good post, and thanks for mentioning about keyword density.

  41. Ben:

    No problem, I always enjoy sharing insight and war stories with other writers. I think you’re method is fine considering even the blandest of industries still have a value proposition (you hope) for their audience.

    I’ve spent thousands of hours writing for deregulated energy in Texas, so I can relate. But I’ve always treated even the most convoluted of subject matters with the same intent. You’ll find that even vertical industries still appreciate consistency.

  42. Sometimes, i just do not use keyword in title because i need more human title than search engine title.

  43. This is a good article.

    There’s also a great comment here from a guy who suggests that the meta description should be used as a call to action. I never thought of that!

  44. Brian,
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

    Clear, concise, useful, educational.

    If the day arrives when I am able to write a post nearly half this good, it will be do to the work you are producing here. Extremely well done. Brian. This is now on my monthly must read list.

  45. Even though SEO gives me gas, this was very interesting and useful. Good stuff.

  46. Thanks for sharing these tips. I know I’ve got to work more on the page links and keyword frequency for the posts on my site.

  47. I think that i’m starting to get my head around what all this stuff means in my writing.

    SEO becomes a natural addition to writing and referencing. I’m trying not to get too hung up on it as it can impact the flow of writing.

    It’s not such an issue if you are creating great content. People sharing and recommending your content because it is great is a much more powerful method these days. I think of it like word of mouth vs marketing.

  48. Fortunately Google understands synonyms. So, you don’t have to repeat the same word or phrase in an unnecessary way. Instead, you can make use of other parts of speech from the same root, synonyms and so on.

    Staying focused on what you’re writing and using relevant terms could also boost your copy for top position in SERP.

  49. This was nice and easy to read, and useful for anyone still getting to grips with on-site SEO. I’ve read somewhere that META descriptions are becoming less important. I’ve started to use them less, although I may be wrong. I never bother with META keywords anymore =)

  50. Ben, sorry for the delay in responding. Got busy yesterday afternoon.

    First of all, I’m all for testing out different approaches. It’s one of the most fascinating areas of copywriting to see how changing a word or set of words effects human behavior.

    My approach with the meta description basically relys on the headline (title) to be the call to action. You know I’m big on compelling headlines, so if the title is doing it’s job in the search results, then it’s going to make a compelling and relevant promise that makes people want to click.

    With that philosophy, I see the meta description as copy that supports that compelling promise rather than a separate call to action. It’s a reassurance that what the searcher will get is on point.

    So, for this article, I might go with something like this for the meta description:

    “Effective SEO copywriting optimizes the content of your web page for better search rankings. Here are the five areas you need to focus on.”

    Anyway, like I said, I’m always open to new approaches. But I’ve seen the power of a good title work wonders for too long to give up on that approach easily. :)

  51. I have another question about links:

    Where do you draw the line between the value in having out-links, which increases SEO, yet it takes readers off your site?

    thanks!
    Jim

  52. Jim, you’ll notice that a lot of people stick with linking to their own content almost exclusively. Some say that’s even better for SEO than linking out, and it certainly keeps people on your site.

    For example, look at my content landing pages like Copywriting 101 – that page is designed to rank for “copywriting”, and every link goes to a part of the tutorial series or supporting information that is on Copyblogger.

  53. Thanks Brian. It’s tough because my Inner Excellence blog is new (as is my website) and so there’s not a lot of my own content to link to.

    So as I write more blogs and build my readership, I have to ride the fine line between putting a link out, which takes readers off my site, and adding links that make the article more interesting and SEO friendly.
    Anyway, I’ll keep reading your blogs–thanks for everything.

  54. Really explains a lot on how to build a site not for the sake of ranking it high but on what the visitors are looking for. We always tend to look things differently whenever search and traffic is the topic and we forget for what we really are writing for. Again thank you for this wonderful post, and another insight I can give to my writers. :)

  55. Jim, from my experience, good links to quality sites from within your content is an excellent method for building the authority of your own site. I would not get caught up in worrying that people are leaving your experience. On the contrary, the more trust you build with your readers by linking them to quality information/sites, the more your site gains authority. Just look at the posts on Copyblogger. They do an excellent job of giving links to the “right” resources where those links help the reader. I know I follow those links but I always come back to the source because I can trust they will only link to the right place to help me.

  56. Brian — thanks for this excellent reminder and clarification of what’s important and what’s not so much when it comes to blogging properly for SEO. I either write for several blogs or supervise writing and there is a system to it but certainly a lot of judgment calls being made with regard to SEO as I either write, edit or post. I enjoyed some of the comments too. It’s not as easy as it might seem, and I don’t think most people realize how difficult it is to continually write effective posts, both for SEO and — more importantly as you say — for the reader experience. Thanks again.

  57. @Jim Murphy – You can always add such outbound links at the end of your post under “for further studies …” and set them to be opened in a new page.

    @Brian Clark – What you’ve mentioned is definitely enhancing internal linking structure, which is by itself a powerful factor and I agree with it as one of the factors helping your ranking for your keywords.

    As a rule, Google helps with your ranking if you link to relevant sites with good information in them. As always, I believe this should also be done in moderation, not exaggeration. In this case, it won’t hurt your ranking anymore.

    This is what I’ve tried and experienced with good results. At least it’s worked for me and some of my clients this way.

  58. Thank you, these tips sum it up so well to share with clients.

  59. Brian,

    After 7 months and 130 posts, I’ve realized how much I’ve learned about on-page SEO, and just how poorly I understood it in the beginning.

    So now I take a few minute every day to re-optimise my older posts, and this also gives me an opportunity to inter-link with newer content I’ve created which wasn’t there when I did the original post.

    Do you know how Google treats updated posts versus new posts?

    cheers in advance!

  60. I look at keywords as the honey that attracts your reader/customer. If at all possible I have keyword(s) in my title. However if you don’t provide good content, then they will not stay around long. Linking to other relevent sites (yours or others) is part of providing that content value. People share what they find to be of value to them, this results in your site becoming an authority site.

  61. Thank you for putting it all together for us, on page elements are more or less known by most SEO experts but that’s a very nice quick guide.

  62. Great posts as always, Brian. Love your SEO series this week :)

    But I can serve an alternate title in the title tag (which is the snippet of code Google actually pulls the title from) thanks to a post feature in Thesis (also available with the All in One SEO plugin for WordPress).

    Question about that, actually, since I haven’t figured it out. If I’ve been using All in One SEO for a few years and then go to Thesis, does Thesis inherit the All in One SEO data? I worry that when I switch over to Thesis, if I disable All in One SEO plugin, it will lose all the info I have stored (and even in the opposite direction, for example, if I have to make changes to Thesis and revert to an old theme for a short while).

    Any ideas if this is the case?

  63. Hey Tamar, good to see you!

    Check out this post to see how to do the transition (for newer versions of AIO SEO, there’s a link at the top of the post).

    I could have sworn someone wrote a plugin for this, but maybe I’m thinking of something else.

  64. Great SEO content ideas. I like how you layed it out in easy steps that i can use when im blogging. Its hard to write content at times and it bugs me but i know if i work hard i can do it.

  65. Hi!

    So I am finally starting to read your blog, I’ve been blogging for 6 months or so but I have always been intimidated by CopyBlogger… but alas, I got up the guts and added it to my blogroll… so far, so good :) I got through this post with ease. N. 2 was a bit confusing but I’ll study it and get it through my non-techy brain.

    Just saying hey & thank you!

  66. Cool – thanks so much for that!

  67. Excellent information. I am documenting a blog development project within a blog. This information very helpful in keeping me focused on writing style and keyword placement. I think I need to change the titles to some of my posts.

  68. It’s a good information, though sometimes a blogger often forget the good content and interesting. They are more interested in advertising than creating the content.

  69. Quality Content is an important thing for get good ranking in search engine because if your content is come in copy scape,then there is no value of content in search engine and your content is useless.

  70. Many thanks Brian, for explaining the complexities of SEO in language I can understand.

  71. I installed and activated the All in one SEO plug in for WordPress and already I’m seeing some pretty amazing results. I feel like a complete nincompoop for just now finding it.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  72. Leaping from newspapers 18 months ago, I believed SEO was intended to be a vast insiders’ secret. Now that I understand it, I realize it wasn’t exclusively an effort to withhold information but more likely lack of ability to explain it. I’d love to hear other opinions …

    Here’s to helping non-techies grasp and appreciate SEO for the benefit of connecting people with the information they seek … well done!

  73. Suzanne,

    I understand what you mean as the majority of SEO related content is written based on the assumption that the fundamental concepts are known by everyone.

    When some years ago, as a beginner in SEO, I was learning it and sharing it with others, everyone’s face turned into a question mark!

    For this very reason, I’ve started a blog since last year and publish SEO in simple language and try to keep away from the technical terminology. Other posts about copywriting, social media, blogging and so on are also written in a very simple language so that the newcomers to the industry could realize them. It’s them who need it.

  74. Don’t forget that the length of your page title and meta description matters as well. The more the content is honed in to the specific keywords, the more that Google will like it. Each word in your meta description and page title needs to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb. The shorter and closer to the keyword the better, yet you still have to make it something that the user would want to click on.

    -Joshua Black

  75. I received the link to this post from Denise Wakeman. She really knows what to put out there! I’m still learning so much about how to write and promote my blog so that it actually gets read. Your tips are valuable to me and your writing style is easy to understand, which I appreciate.

  76. Great article. As a professional SEO, I spend a ton of time on these 5 areas – all of which can have huge impacts on rankings and traffic if done correctly. I also like the fact that you talked about “other stuff” as there is an endless amount of criteria that goes into a good SEO campaign.

  77. Hi Brian,

    What is a good way to generate so many comments!

    Thanks

    Patrick

  78. I was not really familiar with SEO optimized writing, while on the other hand I have been writing a lot. This primer is perfect for me to get going with an important aspect of the optimization of my blog. Thank you!

  79. Brian, Thanks for the excellent article.

    I would add a sixth area to focus on, which I think is equally important not just for good SEO but also for the human reader. It is a technique that you have employed effectively in this post: use of headings, namely h2 and h3 tags.

    My recommendation is to break up the content with headings that contain keywords but are still natural.

    The headings help the reader understand the content by breaking it down into manageable chunks.

    The headings also help the search engines understand what the article is about and have greater weight than text in paragraphs.

    The headings are also useful when writing the article as they help the structure.

    So my amended approach is

    1. Title
    2. Description
    3. Headings
    4. Content
    5. Keyword Density check
    6. Links

    As a final note, when outsourcing articles I will do steps 1 to 3 and provide instructions for steps 5 and 6. This gives the external resource a pretty good idea of what is required and also gives me less work to do in the final editing phase before publishing

  80. I think backlinks as of now holds the most importance with Google page rank.
    I’d suggest to fix the alt text in the images as well. But the 5 you mentioned up there matters big-time.

  81. Some of those who are new to blogging do ask me what is SEO and how to do it. This post makes it so much easier to consume. The five essential elements does make simple sense and it doesn’t have to take too much work.

    My policy has always been to write for the human readers first and search engine second. I guess there’s nothing wrong if you can do both at the same time simply by tweaking (a little bit) how you write a blog post.

  82. Great comments and very helpful information here. I just installed Scribe™ into WordPress.

    Wow, what a relief! As a newbie blogger, Scribe™ will save me loads of time and enables me to focus on my core vision. It “just makes sense” to use this plug-in, for ANY blogger.

    Brian, thanks for this AWESOME plug-in!

    Anyone who’s not using Scribe™ yet, here is the link http://bit.ly/9ssmGV

  83. As I read my way through this article I repeatedly went back to my last post and made changes. This is probably because I am an action learner, I need to do things in order to get the hang of them and inbed them into my mind. It was a useful exercise. The results will show just how useful. I will try to remember to post again in a month’s time.

  84. Should the relevant outbound links be nofollow links?

  85. Drew, no, not unless you don’t trust the sites you’re linking to, or they are paid sponsors. And if it’s not a respectable site, you probably shouldn’t link to it in the first place.

  86. Hi Brian,

    This is a very pertinent topic for me, especially within the context of the last comment you gave back to @Drew.

    I have just started to rebuild our company website using Thesis theme, and already we are getting comments and trackbacks that look, well, poor quality (to put it nicely).

    Should I be trashing these trackbacks or should I be modifying them to add a ‘nofollow’?

    So far, I’ve trashed every single one.

  87. You are very right, it is important to make sure that your content is both meaningful and constantly updated. Just repeating a bunch of terms doesn’t get a company anywhere when it comes to SEO. In terms of content, what is written not only should it be insightful it should encourage the user to do something or take an action. Audience involvement is key. Good post

  88. Brian – Very insightful post.

    Content is more important than ever. It provides so much ammunition to establish the credibility.

    -Deven

  89. This is a very great post. I do some SEO consulting and this will help me out not only in my personal projects but for my consulting work as well.

  90. A fantastic pillar article Brian!

    It is so interesting to see how the emphasis of what is important for article writing SEO changes over the years. To me the title really just kills everything else. If your title is bad it doesn’t matter about the rest.

    Thanks for the inspiration, again.

  91. These are all great points.

    I really like what you said about building relevant content that attracts people. This is very true…the better your content, the more eyes that will come and look at it.

    SEO companies like to create great content because it helps build links. People might read your articles and want to post them on their site or blog. This creates a link back to your website. The more links the better!

  92. Thank you very much for the article.

  93. Nice post. Funny how when it comes to writing copy, it always comes down to mastering the same elements.

    Almost every professional will tell you how important these few points are.

  94. This pretty much gives a good background about SEO. Another important point is having a lot of content…good content.

    The more content that one has on their website, and the higher the quality, the better the search ranking will be by Google and other search engines.

  95. These are the very basics of SEO. On-page is the first step for a good website to succeed and it should never be neglected.

  96. Just to add to Brian’s great work. Content should always be written for your targeted visitors. Search engines do take into account how long visitors spend on your site. The longer the visitors stay on your site the better.

  97. I like how your post points out NOT to get so hung up on rules. As a freelance copywriter, I have many clients who become fixated on the ‘keyword density ratio’. I’m a strong believer in the fact that it’s all about your online visitors. If they are engaged and stay on your site, this is what matters most – not the number of times your keywords appear on any given page. If you’re writing about a particular topic in detail, then most likely the targeted keywords are popping up on a regular basis…naturally.

  98. Excellent job Brian, You explained it pretty well. When i first started mywebsite, I didn’t know about anything, no mata tags, no discription, nothing at all and that was the reason my website was on the very last pages. I would recommend this article to every one who is a beginner webmaster.

  99. Content writing is indeed important. But the content should be of high quality and should be included in on page and off-page SEO tactics. Keywords should always be well integrated in the content. There should also be a balance between keywords and content. I think that many people overlook the importance of On-Page SEO and simply begin with their Off-Page. This is often counterproductive. If your site is not optimized correctly the link building will be in vain.

  100. These are great recommendations. When I first started Internet Marketing I was quite overwhelmed at trying to find ways of increasing traffic to my sites. When I learned SEO tactics and the importance of adding quality content to my sites I realized there was no better way to rank well in SERPS and to bring in quality visitors to my websites. Good for you, for putting this together.

  101. Great tips here for successful on-site optimisation. Getting the balance right between writing for SEO purposes and ensuring your content hits the mark for the real people who are viewing your website is the key.
    I have to agree with your comment “I go with the more compelling headline first and foremost” – remembering your end user at all times when optimising is very important.

  102. One of the best Special Reports I’ve ever seen.
    Great information and strong relationship/trust builder.
    I came away feeling more knowledgeable, somewhat overwhelmed and eager to move forward with Scribe.

  103. Actually I wonder why just talk about on page SEO? Then where talks about the off page? Then I realized that this article was entitled: On Page SEO – Five Areas to Focus On for Effective SEO Copywriting :-) So this article really focuses on the on page SEO.

    This is off topic, I really want to know, can we get a good rank from google only with Effective SEO Copywriting without backlink building? Sorry if this question looks silly :-)

  104. Antoony, at the bottom of the post in a yellow box is a link to a 28-page free report that explains the entire SEO copywriting process, from on-page, off-page, keyword research and link building. Take a look at it, should answer your questions.

  105. Brian, I apologize for not thoroughly reading your articles above. Yes, you are right, at ‘How To Create Compelling Content That Ranks Well in Search Engines’ there is the answer to my question. I will read it repeatedly to get the core essence. Thanks for all.

  106. Until I found this blog, I thought SEO coywriting was dull… Now I see it as a worthy game of ruthless optimization.
    Joe :)
    P.S. I just bought Thesis based on your validation.

  107. A great article, very inspiring!

  108. OK cool site love all the info here. New to your site I just tripped onto you the other night. Only been Blogging for a short time and developing a strong appreciation of the content here. Trying to get into the SEO part of things and your article answered some points I had questions about. I got started with the make money now thing but really enjoy the community aspect of Blogging. Hey thanks for the read and your great points.

  109. One Thing i have always thought of about on page seo is how do you get it to go popular, We all know that alot of pages do well but how do you make it link bait ready? Questions like these need to be found if i want any success in internet marketing.

  110. With regards to meta descriptions I’ve noticed a few times that even if I stick within the character limit, Google sometimes uses the first line of text from the relevant web page rather than the meta description I’ve written.

    Has anyone else experienced this?

  111. Very good point about being spreading the word! getting more people to see what you’re up to is key, but at some stage the quality has to be there, what comes first the great content, or the authority, the former for me.

  112. Just an amzaing post. Tnx a lot!

  113. You’ve hit on some major points here. It is so important to focus on Meta Tags, Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, Content and even yes the format and navigation of the site and I too could go on, but executing some of these initially will allow your site to gain naturally over time, and that is the best way to gain popularity in the eyes of the search engines. You never want to force anything, especially when it comes to link building, try to stick to a white hat approach making sure to build relevant links whether they are internal links or external, always keep quality in mind over quantity.

  114. All this information is great stuff and you know it Brian. I can do every bit of it and get pretty good results.

    The one thing I battle with more than anything is the title. I know the title needs to be and should be keyword relevant. But I get caught up in wanting my titles to be something catchy…you know those titles that leave you saying, “dang, I wish I had thought of that” or “what a catchy phrase”.

    I guess if you choose to do it that way you’d better have some heavy hitting stuff in the body of the post :)

  115. Brian,
    I didn’t read the 133 comments listed above due to time constraints, therefore excuse me if this question has already asked. On page 8 of “How to Create Compelling Content …” you mention an Appendix, “I’ve got a more extensive guide to keyword research for you in the Appendix to this report.” This Appendix is NOT included in the 28 pages I downloaded. How can I get a copy of the Appendix?

  116. This is a great stuff to learn and must be focused on in terms of SEO. Again thanks for this useful information.

  117. I think in search engine optimisation, we all must pass by a black hat period in order to test some software and understand better the limit and rules of big G. After what we can choose a way to follow in ou SEO mission. What do you think about that?

  118. Simply awesome, I have bookmarked this and will burn this stuff into my brain with repetition. Good stuff!

    Joel

  119. Informative and very important. In answer to your call for opinions on the validity or seo worthiness of alt tags I would add this; alt tags are a great way to improve keyword density without having your content read like it’s being optimized. They make your content more keyword rich(albeit fractionally) without bothering your readers through constant repetition of those keywords in the text.

  120. ..quality search results for people.

    I will remember that always when I write.

    Thank you Brian for sharing your practical ideas on SEO.

  121. Love this! Thanks so much for generously sharing your expertise here!

    Best,
    Christine Hueber

  122. Good practical SEO for the people and the engines. Makes sense to me

  123. This is a great basic guide for SEO, alot of people trying to optimize their sites overlook the onpage factors, i have placed pages on top spots by doing onpage SEO of course the competition is low but it shows you how Tittle, Description etc are very important.. great post

  124. Your site provides so much information on SEO Copywriting, which is what I do. Thank you so much for all the free downloads of useful details! Much appreciated!

  125. Thanks for the overview.

  126. This is a wonderful reminder of what I’m I’m doing well and what I need to work on. Thanks.

  127. Hello Brian,

    Great article and GREAT SITE! I’ve been learning plenty. Which brings me to the alternative title technique for SEO ranking you discuss in this article.

    It’s my understanding, based on my (newly begun) SEO studies, that Google frowns upon and penalizes a website that shows one thing to a user and another to the spider; keywords for example. Considering this, I don’t understand how it’s ‘legal’ (for lack of a better term) to “serve an alternate title in the title tag (which is the snippet of code Google actually pulls the title from) …” as you discuss in the article.

    So are you saying it’s ok to have a public-facing for the reader and an for google?

    Thanks.

    Ramone

    • It’s totally fine — you just wouldn’t want to do it in a way that’s misleading. So don’t have title tag keywords for something that’s unrelated to your content.

      The title tag *is* visible to the reader, it’s the wording that appears at the very top of your browser window.

  128. A brief overview but correct nonetheless. It’s been my experience that I more I learn about SEO, the more I need to learn. It never ends and is always changing and keeping you on your toes. What’s worked in the passed may no longer work in the future, however the tips in this article are timeless and very useful as a foundation from which to start building. Thanks for the post!

  129. Nice wrap-up of all the important essentials. I normally put all the essentials as a checklist for each project to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

  130. I like this – thanks for sharing. Copy writers should be all aware of how to present an article to make it google friendly. I heard that contributors and editors at about.com are taught how to seo their own article in order to have their page listed in prominent places in google serps.

  131. Thank you for the post, Brian. Some very handy tips here. I found that using less competitive related terms works well, as well as alt image text.

  132. I like how you layed it out in easy steps that i can use when im blogging. Thank you for this wonderful post, and another insight I can give to my writers. :)

  133. Excellent review. I forget some of t hese–especially providing links to other sites. This is something that I do regularly for social media posts for both myself and my clients. I think the benefits are twofold–it gives people something to click on–we’re an impatient lot, after all, and it shows that you’re staying on top of trends and industry news, looking for ways to share your knowledge with your clients.

  134. Thanks for this post – I actually have struggled with this as I actually have NO comments nonetheless on my blog and in some ways in which feel badly this (until i scan your posts regarding this) and nonetheless I see there’s a lot of that I will do. i’ll participate a lot of in different blogs and raise a lot of queries (I do raise some) – conjointly i prefer the concept of asking a matter within the heading. tons to have confidence however i might wish to interact with readers and suppose comments may be a good way to try to to therefore.

  135. Great and simple post
    I wasn’t aware of article description that appears in Google
    It’s actually very important, since it might decide the reader if he click or not
    so thanx!

  136. Does the same seo-“rules” goes for Wikipedia as well? Want to edit a Wiki-page and need to know how to make the page as google-friendly as possible. Could you Brian, or anybody who has knowledge on this topic please help me out. Thank you so much!

  137. Thank you for the post, Brian. Some very handy tips here. I found that using less competitive related terms works well, as well as alt image text.

  138. The title has such a huge impact on SEO ranking. I’ve seen certain blog posts rank in the top 5 for a keyword, simply because of a title.

  139. After reading to much stuff about seo, i got lost
    So it’s good to read a simple post with essentials about seo

  140. This is a good article.

    There’s also a great comment here from a guy who suggests that the meta description should be used as a call to action. I never thought of that!

  141. Content,Title,Thesis very important,Great post.

  142. I’d say the most important thing to remember is to write with readers in mind and not the search engines. There are way too many mediocre articles out there which are purely written for SEO and contain nothing actually worth reading.

  143. I started out on the web in the mid 1990’s building a website about hysterectomy – not the most popular of subjects but highly relevant to it’s very specific audience. I naturally followed the advice Brian has shared here simply because there was no such thing as SEO back then. I wrote for the audience to answer their questions and their needs, over the years that original website has developed into a much larger site and with a huge amount of content in the form of posts, pages and forum comments too (yes, I moved it to a CMS a few years ago) but the same principles still apply – the only thing that a search wants to do is to provide exactly the right resource to an enquirer because that is what will keep them coming back. If you are providing the resource in a structured and consistent way then you will get traffic now and into the future, so thanks for the timely reminder Brian. Linda PH

  144. These are great tips for copy writing. Most are very common sense but great detailed explanations. Is there an easy way to calculate keyword density? Possibly a site, app or program available?

  145. I now believe that SEO is not as important as before, and that search engines are positioned only sites with content.