Writing SEO: Our How-To For Writing Effective SEO Copy

Posted on November 21, 2022 nerdymind

You’re sitting at your desk, staring at the ever-blinking cursor at the end of the long-winded paragraph you just wrote about your identified keyword. You count the number of times it’s been used in the last 500 words. You’ve managed to force it in there eleven times. You’re feeling proud. This will definitely boost the page in any search engine’s eyes and your competitor will sour in the second place spot, exactly where they belong. You reread your fine work, and as your eyes pass over each sentence that proud feeling turns to worry. The readability of your page copy has diminished for the sake of SEO.

You’re thinking, this sounds like I’m writing for a computer, not a person. Am I actually writing for a search engine to notice me, rather than people in my field looking for help? Do I even have an audience without the direction of the search engine? Who am I? What is the meaning of life?

Take a breath, relax, and calm down. The short answers are sort of, yes, consult a friend/family member/therapist, and 42. SEO is a difficult beast to tame, and you’re not alone in wanting to learn more about writing effective SEO copy.

What is SEO?

SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is a practice designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results. In practice, SEO is how you attain that top organic spot after someone searches for something on Google. The primary goal of SEO is to rank in SERPs (search engine results page), which is that list of pages Google provides after you hit enter.

Screenshot of a Google SERP for “NerdyMind” with an arrow pointing to the top organic spot.

Many elements come together to form good SEO. Meta descriptions, purposeful alt-text, and internal linking are a few tactics used to target a keyword. None of that really matters, however, without effective SEO copy. Good SEO copy is the foundation of any webpage—other than a functioning website, of course.

In terms of writing effective SEO copy, here are the three things to consider:

  • Word Count

  • Keyword Quantity & Quality

  • Readability

Word Count

Any person who was a student concurrent with the existence of Microsoft Word knows the agony of meeting a word count. Unlike finding the hypotenuse of a triangle or knowing that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, meeting a word count is relevant after graduating from school. Let us offer a blanket apology to any math or science teachers, but we’re just stating facts—at least for us marketing folks.

Like many of our previous teachers, our search engine of choice checks to see if we’ve met the word count. Word count is important for SEO because the longer the word count, the easier it is for the search engine to understand what the webpage is about. You can find article after article discussing the magic number of words needed for good webpage SEO. One person might argue 300 words is the best, while the next will tell you that 1,500 words yield a high score.

Yoda once said, “Size matters not.” This pithy wisdom is relevant for both Jedi and content writers. After all, content writers are basically Jedi without *actual* lightsabers. (Editor’s Note: proofreaders are too!) Copy length does not correlate to writing quality. A page could have 2,000+ words and say almost nothing about the topic at hand. Another page might have 100 words—clear, concise, and leaving the audience without further inquiry. The issue with both options, however, is that there will likely be a high bounce rate for these pages. While for different reasons, your audience will be done with your webpage/product/brand just as quickly as they are able to leave the page.

We can't say definitively that we know the magic number of words. C-3PO probably could, but he's in a galaxy far, far away. Since that annoying yet lovable protocol droid can't help us, we usually recommend a range of 300–700 words. We established this number through deliberate testing and measuring of data.

Keyword Quantity and Quality

The number of times you use your identified keyword and how you use it are vital to writing effective SEO copy. If your keyword isn’t used as much as your competitors, Bing won’t rank you among them. If you use your keyword too often in a bot-like way—or don't use it properly—your page also won’t rank well.

Quantity

Keyword quantity ties back to word count. You want your page to have a good amount of words. You want enough of those words to be your keywords so Google shows your page when a user searches for that keyword. As with the Force, balance is key for your writing. You want your keyword to appear often enough to rank, but you don’t want to sound like a repetitive bot writing a webpage.

Like content length, there is no magic number when it comes to how many times to use your keyword. Sometimes, the writing flows, and the keyword appears organically every 50 words or so. Other times, it’s a struggle to work that keyword in every 200 words. The first step is to use the keyword in the page title. If possible, integrate it into the first heading as well. We suggest an average of once every 150 words for the body copy itself.

Quality

When it comes to keywords, you want to be specific. For example, if you’re making a webpage for your farm’s seasonal autumn apple picking, you don’t want your keyword to just be “apple”. Your target audience will never find you. Anyone searching for your business will find results dedicated to a certain tech company and its products. Instead, use specific keyword phrases like “apple picking" or “autumn apple picking.” Take it a step further and try “apple picking Northern Colorado." Specific phrases and locations allow search engines to better unite your webpage to someone looking for it. A good SEO strategy results in higher-quality traffic and better conversions overall.

If you’re struggling to find new keywords, there are many websites dedicated to keyword optimization. UberSuggest and Moz are two great resources. For other ideas, you can check out your competitors and see what keywords they might use.

Readability

Imagine an outdated, sickly-colored cream and white webpage. There are a total of five different serif fonts. Oh, there's also a flashing banner ad occupying a third of the screen. These choices (might) seem excusable... until we read the page title: “You’re the how-to guide on the audience, and how to get there attention.” It’s outrageous, horrible, and terrifying. The flow is terrible and there’s even a typo! Suddenly you have flashbacks to MySpace and that teenage angst resurfaces. Before you know it, you’ve lost an afternoon while listening to Dashboard Confessional. In marketing, one thing is for certain: under no circumstances can you ever create that website.

Creating a webpage that is monstrous is likely impossible for us professionals. Readability—and how diligently we check our work—can still be an issue though. Writing effective SEO copy means channeling that high school English teacher. You know the one to whom we refer: far too excited with their red pen and hyper-vigilant about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Consult that inner version of them before publishing any webpage.

You also want to make sure that you’re writing effective SEO copy for all audiences to understand. In the U.S., the average adult can read at a 7th/8th-grade reading level. Your writing should be simple enough for a 13-year-old to understand. Word and Google Docs have settings you can use to check readability. There are even third-party writing applications like Hemingway Editor that you can use. If your webpage lacks readability, your SERP ranking will be poor. Anyone who finds your site will likely bounce.

Writing effective SEO copy is a practiced skill. It can take a lot of trial and error to see what works for your webpage to get good SERP results. If your page is still struggling to get on that first results page, check out what else might be hindering your website’s SEO with our 10-Minute SEO Audit.