Among all the different types of marketing out there today, I think that search engine optimization (or SEO) marketing and copywriting are the most misunderstood. Ironically, they’re also the type of marketing that many people think they know a lot about.
The field of SEO marketing has been around for awhile now, and it has changed drastically since the words Google and Yahoo first became part of the lexicon two decades ago. In fact, SEO marketing changes so fast that the successful SEO marketers I know never sit still when it comes to staying abreast of the latest SEO trends and developments.
One of these successful SEO marketers is SEO and PPC freelancer Jenny Munn. I talked to Jenny recently to get the scoop on what’s happening in the world of SEO marketing, specifically as it relates to SEO copywriting.
Question: In what ways has SEO copywriting changed the most recently?
Jenny: SEO copywriting hasn’t changed much in the past year or two, but compared to 5 to 10 years ago, it’s night and day different (thank goodness!). Back then, SEO copywriting was so formulaic — who remembers keyword density? — and icky.
Today, SEO copywriting means adhering to some basic foundational principles. Beyond this, the authority, quality, substance, creativity, personality and context to the copy matter more than ever. We’re past Google rewarding bad SEO copywriting, which means bad practices like keyword stuffing and link schemes for the most part have faded out. I still see bad practices, but they’re thankfully few and far between. It’s just not worth it to try and get away with anything that crosses the line anymore.
Not only are Google’s algorithms very sophisticated, but Google is making it easier for people to “out” you and report websites for spam or paid link schemes. Also, Google is taking into account so many other metrics that indicate whether a site is truly high quality or not. The bottom line is that gimmicky tricks turn readers off and the metrics will reflect that accordingly.
Question: What are some of the most common SEO copywriting mistakes you see marketers making today?
Jenny: Mostly, I see marketers who generate blah, generic copy and wonder why they aren’t getting results. Gone are the days when you could pay a generalist writer to do some basic research, draft a blog post and hope it ranks well. The marketers who get the best results employ thought leaders to make sure their copy says something different and authoritative and stands out.
Also, a little personality in your content goes a long way. In today’s world of instant gratification, nobody’s going to stick around and read something that is boring.
Oh, one more huge mistake I’m surprised to still see today: Many marketers are just guessing at their keywords and making them up. They would be so much more empowered if they knew how to work their way around the data and reports in Google Analytics and Google Search Console, especially the SEO and traffic reports. They’d be able to find great keywords to create content around, as well as report back what’s working and what’s not.
Question: What are some common misconceptions about SEO copywriting that many marketers have?
Jenny: One of the biggest is that Google is still a mystery and it changes all the time. At this point, it’s not necessarily a mystery what Google wants and which types of sites rank high. Consistently doing the right SEO activities that improve results on a month-to-month basis is the much harder part.
SEO copywriting is a critical skill, but there are many more things at play nowadays that contribute to how high you can get your content to rank on your own. There are more than 200 signals that contribute to the complex business of search engine ranking.
Question: What are a few of your top tips for SEO copywriting?
Jenny: Marketers should stay informed about the other factors besides SEO copywriting that contribute to high rankings — things like social media, link-building and technical architecture. Even if you’re not the tactical person doing these things, it helps to have a basic understanding of the other parts of SEO.
I also recommend specializing in a niche or industry if you can. You’ll get much better results if you can write with authority on a topic and be able to optimize the content and select appropriate keywords.
Finally, remember that the basics are still the basics. Don’t forget to write thoughtful and keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions; to optimize your images, videos and media; to use keyword variations, format your copy, link internally and use subheads to break up the copy. And above all, don’t forget to include a call to action.