Have you tried patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time? It’s harder than it sounds.
Writing engaging SEO copy can feel the same way. It’s a combination of two separate tasks — writing creatively and writing for search. These two tasks feel doable on their own, but when they’re combined, you’re left scratching (or patting) your head in frustration.
The good news is that search engines are on our side. They want to rank content that is interesting and helpful to their users.
This means that writing high-quality, reader-friendly copy should be a fundamental part of your SEO strategy. It can decrease your bounce rate, increase your links and indicate to Google that your content is the best.
So how do you write this kind of copy? It’s not as hard as you think:
Write for your readers
Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
But most of us aren’t writing for our readers; we’re writing for who we think our readers are. We’re giving them content that we think they want. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but luckily the fix is easy too.
The first step is find out who’s in your audience. Pull data from Google Analytics, ask your clients for buyer personas or explore the comments left on your articles. It’s a lot easier to write for your audience if you know who they are.
After that, get specific. Write for you readers and your readers only. Avoid broad, sweeping content that appeals to the masses, and give your audience something custom-tailored. It’s a boutique experience they’ll only get from you, and it’ll keep them coming back for more.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to use words like “you.” It’s another signal to your reader that this content was created for them.
However, the best way to write for your readers is perhaps the simplest of all. Don’t waste their time! Tell them immediately what they’ll get from your content, deliver it in a timely manner and avoid tangential or repetitive information.
Entertain your readers
We’re all looking to have a little fun. If you can infuse your copy with a dash of humor or intrigue, it’s likely that readers will stick around.
If you can’t do that, at least make your copy relatable. And if you can’t do that, just don’t make it boring.
After all, nothing makes readers bounce faster than dull, droning copy.
How do you avoid it? A heady mix of personality and savvy syntax strategy:
- Try alliteration (like I just did) or strategic rhyming and repetition.
- Mix up your sentence lengths to create rhythm. It works!
- Speak in the present voice because it carries more energy.
- Try ditching your formal tone for an informed, but casual one. We’re more engaged if we feel like we’re chatting with a friend.
- Style guide permitting, let your personality show through. Tell mini-stories, have an opinion or share a tasteful joke or two.
- Use sensory writing; it helps the reader feel like they’re right there with you. I like Copyblogger’s example to “craft a red poppy in a sea of grey content.”
- Don’t forget to use the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) formula to pull in readers. For example, you can try a surprising question or enlightening fact as your introductory sentence. (See tummy-rubbing, head-patting example above.)
Most importantly, don’t let your own lack of energy show up in your copy. It’s the writing equivalent of “don’t let ‘em see you sweat.” If your reader can tell that you’re getting bored, they will too.
Earn your readers’ trust
What comes to mind when you think of instilling trust? Do you think of testimonials? Certification symbols? What about using the right “your”?
Did the last one seem like a curveball? It shouldn’t. The wrong wording, grammar or spelling tells your audience that you’re not authoritative.
Why is this bad? Readers who don’t trust you won’t link to you or share your content. In fact, they probably won’t even finish reading it.
This isn’t new information, but it’s easy to forget when you’re focused on the big picture. So assure you sound trustworthy by:
- Remaining consistent with grammar, spacing, spelling and punctuation.
- Ditching exaggerated language: intensifiers like “very” or “really” are usually unnecessary.
- Double checking your expressions: phrases like “I could care less” are incorrect and will bother some readers.
- Avoiding end of sentence prepositions like “Where are you at?”
- Reading your copy out loud to catch errors, then having somebody else edit it.
English lesson aside, you should also remember to cite your sources. And if possible, write about topics you know — it’s easier for readers to trust you this way. If you have to write about something you’re unfamiliar with, research what’s already been written about it. Then get to work! Sometimes an informed outside opinion is exactly what a topic needs.
Write with a purpose
Hint: fulfilling a word count doesn’t count as a purpose. Neither does targeting a keyword.
There’s a popular rhetoric textbook called “Everything’s an Argument,” and all you need to know is right there on the cover. Your writing has to stand for something, and that something is your purpose. Having one from the get-go will make everything — from crafting calls to action to targeting long tail keywords — a lot easier.
If you don’t know what your purpose is, try framing it as intent instead. It may help to think of the three types of search intent (navigational, informational and transactional queries) too. For example, maybe your intent is to inform your readers of the value of quality copywriting.
Once you figure out your purpose (or intent), every single word, sentence and call to action should point toward that goal. If words are your budget, your purpose is the all-important bottom line.
If you’re having trouble targeting your purpose, try the inverted pyramid model that journalists use. The most important info goes first in your copy, then you expand into details and supporting information. This forces you to confront what you’re really writing about right off the bat.
Make your copy easy to read
Our attention spans have gone the way of Blockbuster and floppy disks. In other words, they’re all but gone. So to keep readers reading, your copy has to be scannable and digestible.
How do you do that? Make your paragraphs no more than five to seven sentences (or less if your sentences are extra lengthy). Use bolding and headers to separate ideas, and break things down into bulleted lists when possible.
Doing this can also be helpful for search. If you don’t believe me, check out how many quick answers are pulled from charts and lists.
Last but not least, use imagery to break up your post. Especially in the age of Instagram, it’s essential.
And there you have it! Writing reader-friendly copy that helps you rank doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, I’m betting you can master it before the tummy-rubbing trick.