If you've ever tried to create content for SEO, you know how hard it is. Not everyone on a marketing team is proficient in SEO copywriting.
As more and more websites were created around the world, SEO copywriting had plenty of issues when it came to UX (user experience). One of the problems that plagued website content was the practice of what came to be known as “keyword stuffing”.
Now, this begs the question: is your content good for users? As we'll explain further, great SEO copywriting digs into the subject while being accessible when it comes to key phrases and keyword usage. But before we go any further, let's go through what your content should not do.
What Is Keyword Stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is the worst thing that you can do for your SEO content. It's not as common these days as it was when SEO was first born, but it's still something you need to avoid at all costs.
This practice involves adding the same keyword or keyphrase repeatedly in your content, using unnatural placements. Basically, keyword stuffing is about creating content that would typically make machines (Google bots) happy but are awful for users.
It's understandable that this happened at the beginning of the development of Google, when SEO was in its inception. However, it is no longer an acceptable practice – not that it ever was, but a few years ago, you could still get a good ranking using keyword stuffing.
As time passed, Google improved their indexing and ranking system to penalize these websites that were abusing their keyword usage. One of the great improvements from Google, when it came to SEO content, is the development of semantic search.
Semantic search improved the ranking of websites with great content. But how does it work? Let's find out.
What Is Semantic Search?
Semantic search is the technique used by Google’s (and other search engines) algorithm in order to “understand” the search intent, the context of the query, and the relationships between words.
The use of semantic search to improve organic results on search engine result pages (SERPs), meant that one should create content while keeping in mind the search intent of users in any specific search.
As an example, let's say you want to search about how to solve a specific puzzle. If you google “solving hanayama puzzle”, your intent is not the same as when you type “hanayama puzzle” into the search box. In the first case, the intent is informational; in the second case, the intent is going to depend on the other searches you have performed in order to get to this specific one.
We can say that the second search could be looking out to shop for Hanayama puzzles, or just wondering what they are. However, the user that types in this second search has definitely a different intent than the one in the first search.
An easy way to understand this is that semantic search tries to read each question as a human would. Context is everything: if you're searching for Roland pianos and then you look up “aira”, before this algorithm update, your search would probably be changed to “aria” or something of the kind. With the context from the Roland piano searches, Google “knows” that you're interested in Aira Creative, a platform for musicians.
So, in short, semantic search makes it easier for quality content to rank. Having a better understanding of how each search query could be answered, you can create content that answers specific questions that your customers and prospects are asking online.
The History of Semantic Search
As it happened with other ranking factors, semantic search evolved over time and was developed by Google as the result of other changes. Let's go through the history of semantic search, starting with the Knowledge Graph.
In 2012, the Knowledge Graph was introduced by Google, and it was an effort from the search engine to improve the way information was indexed and ranked. This was the goal of the biggest search engine in the world: to develop entities as indexing values rather than strings of keywords.
This technology would gather all the information that it considered was public domain, in order to give factual answers to questions users were asking.
Another algorithm update from Google, Hummingbird started to roll out in 2013. Its goal was to target websites that had quality answers to the search, matching search intent and context. Websites that repeated keywords with no context were penalized, marking another step in the evolution of semantic search.
In 2015, RankBrain was introduced as both a ranking factor and an AI (artificial intelligence) based smart query analysis mechanism. Adding machine learning to Google's algorithm mix made it even more powerful. Even though RankBrain's mechanism was created to match search intent just like Hummingbird, its machine learning component was able to grab a search query and understood its contextual meaning.
As a result of the way it was designed, RankBrain is able to get the right ideas from a search term and grab the relevant result, even when that result does not include the exact keywords from the search. This mechanism on search engines resulted in taking semantics even further by improving search results, since RankBrain is constantly learning. The results that get more clicks, a lower bounce rate, etc., are moved to the top results for the relevant search query. But how does semantic search impact SEO in practical terms?
How Does Semantic Search Affect SEO?
The Increase in Voice Search
Do you know how to optimize for voice search? Search data shows that in the past few years, voice search increased quite quickly, and this has also helped semantic search to evolve.
If you want to optimize for voice queries, you need to adopt a conversational tone in your blog posts and content. You also need to get straight to the point, as you should answer the main question in just a few sentences. “How to” questions are the most commonly used in voice search.
We also recommend using structured data to increase organic traffic due to voice search in your blog posts.
Less Keywords, More Topics
When it comes to optimizing according to an entity rather than a keyword, topics are a great help. Natural language processing helped develop the indexing and ranking of content that fits the main topic without it being mandatory to have the exact keyword users are searching for.
Another relevant technique is to use long tail keywords to increase your organic traffic. How do you do this? Well, long tail keywords are more specific and tend to help you reach out to your target audience by getting straight to the point.
Search Intent Targeting
Another relevant change is the fact that SEOs need to target users according to their search intent, rather than targeting keywords. This results in high-quality content that increases your organic traffic by using natural language processing techniques.
Rather than creating content around a keyword, understand the search intent behind each term and develop your blog posts around the user intent that best suits your website and your business.
Now that we know a bit more about the technology behind copywriting for SEO, we'll show you the main steps that you can take in order to create quality content for SEO.
How To Write Good Content for SEO
Before writing: always start with keyword research
This is the first step before diving into SEO copywriting. Whether you're writing a blog post or content for other purposes, you should always start with keywords. Even though in this article we explored other ways to rank that aren't exactly attached to keywords, they are still quite relevant in developing your roadmap for quality content.
SERPed has a few keyword tools: Ultimate Research, What Ranks Where, Keyword Analyzer and Long Tail Keywords. All these tools will help you make sure that you're using the right keywords and targeting your audience properly.
SEO Copywriting in Three Steps
Phase 1 of the writing process: Preparing your text
After researching your keywords, we recommend drawing an outline of your article. How can you use your keywords in your headers? Which questions do you need to answer?
This outline will make it easier to develop your subject in a thorough way, without losing touch with what your audience looks for, i.e. user intent.
Other than that, it's necessary to plan your content for SEO copywriting. As you know, it's not all about the keywords, but they are relevant in order to decide how you're going to approach your subject. User intent is essential for copywriters to know what they should write about.
In short, if you want to get users that are looking for information, you need to address that in your article. If, on the other hand, you're interested in searches with buying user intent only, you'll have to offer all the details about your product, how does it stack against similar products from competitors, main features… and, of course, the price.
As you see, planning is the best way to make sure you're aiming at the right target with your content.
Phase 2 of the writing process: Writing your text
This step has no secrets if you're an experienced copywriter. Follow your outline and you should be alright. Develop your content in order to explain everything your users want to know.
If you're struggling with the first few words, or the first paragraph, just jot down some terms you want to include in this first section and move on. A lot of times, it's easier to leave your intro and then come back to it when the bulk of the article is done.
Another thing we recommend when writing your text is to avoid thinking too much about awkward sentences or chunky paragraphs. Just stay in the writing flow and leave all that to fix in the next stage.
Phase 3 of the SEO copywriting process: Editing your text
Now that you have a draft of your article, it's editing time. When editing, there are a few techniques that will help you ensure the best quality in your SEO copywriting.
First, we recommend proofreading “in reverse”. What this means is starting from the last sentence of the article and do your proofreading backwards. This way, it's easier to notice if some sentences don't make sense or there are some grammar mishaps.
Another proofreading and editing technique is to read your text out loud. This helps you maintain a conversational writing style, which is essential to make sure you're understood.
You should also test your content for Flesch-Kincaid reading level. Ideally, your reading level should be close to 7th grade. This might seem like you're underestimating your readers, but actually, it is just a way to make sure that nobody gives up on reading your content just because it's too complicated.
Editing is the longest stage in creating content. You need to read your article several times, changing everything that is not necessary, removing repetitions, and making sure you are onpoint. Last tip: use the inverted pyramid technique. The inverted pyramid puts the most important information at the beginning of an article, and the rest follows in an upside-down funnel fashion.
SEO copywriting is not only about being able to write, but it is also about knowing how search engines work, how they index and how they rank results. Google's semantic search and natural language processing techniques make it harder to rank for a specific keyword; however, if you work hard on your content to make it relevant touser intent, you might get that high rank you're after.
Of course, you also need to take care of off-page SEO metrics and on-page SEO is not solely about content. Nevertheless, SEO copywriting is still of great importance in any marketing strategy, and something you cannot ignore if you want to rank high.