SEO Copywriting & Blogging Best Practices

Get your blog on with these tips & tricks

Confession: I’m a word junkie. The choice of one word over another can change our perception of issues, products and other people. As a former journalist and communications director and now professional blogger and social media strategist, words – and how I use them – are my most valuable tools.

Whether you’re writing a community newsletter or a blog online, the words you choose determine how much of your content get read. But while your community newsletter is hand delivered to a waiting audience, your blog has to be found to be read. And to get found, you have to use your words in a way that search engines understand – as well as your reader.

SEO writing – it’s not just good writing.

SEO Copywriting During a job interview a few years ago, the interviewer passed me a writing test. I quietly pushed the paper back and told the interviewer that if my previous position as an editor of a national magazine was not proof enough of my ability, this was the wrong job for me. I got the job but I quickly learned that transferring my print journalism skills to an online magazine was a bigger challenge than I’d expected.

While journalists are good at cherry picking the best word to use to entice you to read further, they may not be giving credence to words people are actually searching for online. For example, when I joined NaturaWorld, the website was peppered with information about latex mattresses (which is what they sold). But searchers were keying in natural foam mattress – not latex – and it became my job to craft a plan to get people to the site using their words and then educate them on the technically correct term.

The words we use can change how search engines find our content and whether or not they serve that content in their search results. When it comes to search engines, the placement of words in your blog posts can be just as powerful as the choice of the word itself.

Where to place words in your blog – a blog post glossary

Understanding the different components of a good blog post is as important as your mechanic knowing the difference between a radiator and an engine block. When the correct terms are used, it’s easier to follow the checklist of must-haves in every post.

H1 – headline or title

This should be keyword rich and tell the reader and search engines what the post is about.

H2 – subtitle

This may have additional keywords, but there’s more room with this headline to be creative, funny, whimsical. Write this headline in your voice.

If you’ve researched your keywords, sprinkle alternate keywords in these two titles. While SEO will help you get readers there, you have to grab attention to keep them there. As Scott Stratton says, people share awesome, not meh.

Body Copy

The text or story of the blog post. This is your meaty content that allows you to explore and share the topic more fully. Remember that web readers like to skim, so use shorter sentences and paragraphs, bullet points and pictures to break up the text. And always finish your post with an invitation to leave a comment, learn more about your company or connect with you on your social networks.

Anchor Text

The clickable text that’s hyperlinked to another page. This text tells the search engines what the hyperlinked page is about.Get Found Online

Good Anchor Text – With more than 600,000 follower, it’s clear Roger Ebert’s Twitter account is a shining example of how to do it right..

Poor Anchor Text – Roger Ebert, 70 this year, has almost 600,000 Twitter followers. See his Twitter stream here.

Deep, internal linking

Linking from one blog post on your site to another blog post or static page on your site. Try to match the anchor text with the title tag of the page you’re linking to. Internal linking is an SEO must because it creates click maps for the user and the search engines to follow. Remember your keywords? Here’s where they pay for themselves…

  • Link to older blog posts
  • Link to news articles
  • Link to other blogs
  • Link to your company website

SEO for Writers Checklist

Is your post about one, finely tuned idea? Do you have at least 5 keywords in mind that are associated with this idea?

  • Does your title (H1) contain at least one of your keywords?
  • Do you have an appealing subtitle (H2)?
  • Do your keywords appear within your body copy?
  • Do variations of your keyword appear within your body copy?
  • Does your post have a meta description? Think of your meta description as your thesis statement in 160 characters or less.
  • Do you have links within your post where readers can go to for more information? Are those links anchored in keywords?
  • Is your body copy between 200 and 400 words in length?

Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (whichever one works best for you) or leave a comment below.

13 Responses to “SEO Copywriting & Blogging Best Practices”

  1. Francesca StaAna says:

    Agreed. Bloggers and copywriters should definitely be mindful and strategic when it comes publishing their content (especially when it’s for SEO purposes).

  2. Hi Julia, great tips for SEO writing. Question for you. I’m not sure I understand why a short length of 200-400 words is good for SEO? To me, longer authority articles search better. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for stopping by with such a great question. The 200-400 word count for blogs is actually a minimum – my mistake for not being more clear about that. The sweet spot with Google seems to be around the 350 mark – to be seen as a source of relevant information. More is good – to a point. Pages that go on for thousands of words will take a long time to load and aren’t likely to be read by your visitors – so too long isn’t good for usability. If your posts are longer than 1,000 words, it might be a good idea to split them into a couple of pages (which is very good for SEO). Hope this helps!
      Julia

      • I recently did a post on this topic, Size Matters, and found one study pointing to the top Google search results landing on pages with over 2,000 words.

        I found this result really interesting and am now convinced that there is a lot more nuance to this than meets the eye – at least when it comes to length.

        Blogging well reminds me a lot of golf. There’s at least 37 things you need to think of in order to get optimal results, and even then you might not execute well enough to see results :)

        • Julia Rosien says:

          Thanks for stopping by, Andrew and for sharing your post – great insights. And I couldn’t agree more – there’s a lot to pay to attention to succeed in this space.
          Julia

  3. I sure do follow these rules for business posts! I learned from the best at Social North!

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Thanks so much, Lisa. It was a pleasure helping you and The Sign Depot out with your SEO strategy – and so happy to see the progress you’re making. Keep at it, girlfriend!
      Julia

  4. Julia, what a great go-to list for me as well as our local chapters!

    We don’t have a secondary title on our Drupal site- is this hurting us?

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by with such a great question. Remember SEO is as much for Google as it is for your human reader so look at your site as if you had just stopped there for the first time. Would secondary titles help you understand more about the article before diving into it and investing your time? Would you be more likely to invest the time if you knew the article was going to answer your questions? My guess is you’d answer yes to both of those – and so would Google. The more targeted, prioritized information (by using headers, for example) you can offer both your human readers and search engine bots, the more likely all will understand your reason for being quicker. And the happier readers are with your content, the more likely they’ll come back to read more – which Google is also paying attention to… Hope that helps!
      Julia

      • Heather says:

        In adding a secondary title to our site redesign wish list!!!
        One more question- for you?
        Original content vs not- are you penalized if you use content that is already out there? So many of the bloggers now share the same post across several sites. Is it hurtful to post this saturated content? Can you tweak it 15% to be ‘fresher’ and more searchable!?
        I think I need to take you for some wine!

        • Julia Rosien says:

          Hi Heather,

          I will never say no to wine :-) But let me see if I can help a little with this question – it’s trickier than most people think. SEOMoz does a really good job of explaining the technical aspects of why duplicate content is an issue but there are other problems as well (as well as some benefits). In my humble opinion, changing an article 15% is not enough to make it unique – there must new ideas added to the article and maybe a new lead and end paragraph. If you`re a big player like the Huffington Post, taking duplicate content won`t hurt you. I`m not playing in those leagues so I wouldn`t take the chance here – or on my travel blog GoGirlfriend.

          Not sure if that helps but at least it will get you thinking about your SEO strategy and if the benefits outweigh the risk – which may different with every author you feature. Good luck!
          Julia


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  1. [...] or less) in which you need to quickly ”sell” the topic of your post. If you don’t make your headlines compelling (and keyword-optimized), chances are good nobody will be reading your blog post. [...]

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