SEO Copywriting Checklist
Beth Craig Presents ‘SEO Copywriting 101’
We had the pleasure of attending The Bridge Marketing and County Wire’s very first ‘Wired for Success’ event at Trinity Park – with our very own Head of Content, Beth Craig, delivering her SEO Copywriting Checklist workshop amongst a whole host of expert speakers including Martin Shave (Global Sales Director at Microsoft), Hana Dickinson (Director of The Bridge Marketing), and business coach Jann Richardson. The event was a roaring success – and we couldn’t stand the thought of anyone unable to attend the event missing out on some of the brilliant content delivered throughout the day.
That’s why we’ve put together this blog post – including our very own basic SEO copywriting checklist for business owners. Whether you couldn’t make it to our workshop, want to add to your notes, or are simply in need of a refresher, we’ve got you covered.
Watch Our SEO Copywriting Checklist on Demand
We’d hate for anyone to have missed out on Beth’s immersive, hour-long workshop in optimised copywriting. Though things aren’t quite the same through a screen, she’s done her very best to recreate an interactive workshop atmosphere in this recreational recording – taking viewers through the seven simple steps needed to take a webpage from the bottom of the pile to the very top of SERPs. You may even get a chance to practice your own copywriting skills throughout – so get your pens and paper (or keyboards) out!
SEO Copywriting Checklist
1. Establishing Your Intended Audience and Brand Voice
The first step in taking a page from the bottom of the pile to first in search involves conducting the research necessary to ensure your final content stays on brand and appeals to the correct audience.
Start your process by completing a generic user persona questionnaire. By filling in this form with the details of your most desired or most common customer, you’ll get to glean some definite information on who you’re targeting with content and why.
To further this, dive into your brand guidelines and any documentation you have surrounding them – particularly where tone is concerned. Consider your brand and its values.
Using the knowledge extracted from the above, you should be able to create a brilliant tone to match your ideal client and keep them engaged – getting all the right points across, whilst staying on-brand and in character.
2. General Research
To get to the top of the SERP, your page needs to be the expert source in the eyes of Google, so research thoroughly. Consolidate and expand your own knowledge on your business, product, or service by reading through your own website and document – but don’t neglect competitor research.
I recommend reading the web pages ranking at the top of the search results pages for similar search terms to what you’d like to achieve.
You should also search general terms related to your industry, product, or service – bolstering your knowledge in every relevant manner.
3. Open Keyword Research Tools
I’m going to introduce you to two key tools for keyword research that will make your life just that little bit easier- Google Search Console and Mangools.
Google Search Console or ‘GSC’ is an online tool that allows users to discover and export data relating to organic search queries tied to a website/page. In simple terms, it helps people with existing websites discover keywords that they’re already ranking for – making it a good place to start. When re-writing content for an existing site, GSC should be your primary source of information. It’s completely free.
Mangools KWFinder is a keyword research tool in which you can find hundreds of keywords with low SEO difficulty. It’s one of the best ways to discover lists of new keywords related to those you’re already aware of. This tool isn’t free – but has a handy 10-day free trial – which provides more than enough time to get your keyword research done!
4. Find and Note Keywords You’re Already Ranking for With GSC
Begin your keyword research process by opening your GSC tab. Search for your website by clicking the three bars in the top left corner of the homepage, followed by search properties. Locate and click on it.
Once you’ve gained access to your site’s overview, click the performance button in the left-hand column. This is where you’ll be able to view all the data you’ll need. As you’ll be completing keyword research and site content on a page-by-page basis, you’ll want to narrow your results down to your chosen page. Do this by clicking ‘new’ and ‘page’ then paste the website page URL within the pop-up field. Ensure the date is set to ‘past 16 months’ to view the most data available.
This process will narrow down the data to show everything collected specifically for that page. Scroll down to ‘queries’ and sort by highest clicks first (if not clicks then search by highest impressions first) – this will reveal the strongest potential keywords.
Note down the most relevant keywords with the highest number of clicks in a notepad or online document. You’ll use them as the foundation of your research.
5. Discover New Keywords With Mangools
You’re now going to take the initial keywords you’ve found through GSC and discover new, related, and potentially higher-performing keywords using Mangools or any other keyword research tool.
Open up the Mangools KW Finder website and ensure you’re on the ‘search by keyword’ tab of the search tool. Here, you’ll be able to insert the keywords you shortlisted in the GSC step, or, if you don’t have any, choose a keyword related to your page that you think would suit it best, for example, if your page is about coffee machines, so you can start with the keyword: coffee machine.
Simply type your keyword into the search form, select the location, and click on the green button “Find keywords”. If you’re a local business or targeting a specific geo region, make sure to specify the location and language. Different locations lead to different results.
Your search will bring up a list of related keywords ranked by relevancy – some of which could trump those on your existing list. Add them to the notes document you started with your GSC results, writing down impression numbers in order to give you a reminder of how each keyword performs.
6. Choose Primary Keyword
You’ll now want to select a primary keyword from your shortlist of Mangools/KW research tool and GSC options – one which best describes your business, product, or service whilst being relevant, and ideally, having a high number of clicks/impressions. Some in your list should jump out to you immediately.
Keep in mind that although the short, impactful keywords here may be appealing with their high impression numbers – that you may be able to combine keywords/terms to create a long-tail keyword.
A long-tail keyword is a phrase typically made from three to five words. Since these keywords are more specific than generic terms, they allow you to target niche demographics. These keywords are also less competitive than generic keywords because they are designed to better reflect how people make queries. With long-tail keywords, you are able to attract more high-quality traffic to your website which is more likely to lead to conversions. Creating a long tail keyword may be as simple as transforming ‘Wedding Flowers’ to ‘Wedding Flowers Suffolk’, or taking ‘Healthcare Recruitment’ to ‘Participant Recruitment for Healthcare Research’. In creating the right long-tail keyword, you’re much more likely to put your website in front of all the right people.
Note down your primary keyword, and perhaps two two three secondary keywords to be sprinkled throughout your content.
7. Heading Hierarchy Research
Headings help users and search engines to read and understand text. They act as signposts for the readers and make it easier for them to figure out what a post or page is about. Headings also define which parts of your content are important, and show how they’re interconnected.
You’re limited to using one H1 heading on each page. This heading should be the name/title of the page or post and include the focus keyword/phrase. After writing your H1 header/title, you can go on to use H2 and H3 subheadings to introduce different sections.
Think of H2 subheadings like the chapters of a book. Within these chapters, you may want to list more specific subsets of information using lesser headers (H3 tags, then H4 tags, etc.) descending in chronological order. It’s rare for most content to get ‘deep’ enough to need to use H4 tags and beyond unless you’re writing really long, or really technical content.
Before writing your heading hierarchy, you’re going to do some competitor research in order to get to grips with what you’re up against and inspire your own heading order. Input the primary keyword you chose in the last step into Mangools SERP checker (with the correct location field selected).
By searching, you’ll discover a list of the top sites ranking for your chosen term – aka your best competitors. We’re going to uncover their strategies – but first, you’ll need to download the Mangools plugin. After you’ve got that sorted, you’re going to select the 3-5 top ranking, relevant URLs and make sure that they align with the end user’s search intent by opening them and skim reading (irrelevant results including eBay, Amazon etc should typically be ignored).
With one of the competitor URLs open and a notepad or google document ready, open the Mangools Chrome extension tool – click ‘on-page SEO’ – ‘Headings’. Copy/paste the site’s headings into your document or write them down. Repeat this process 3-5 times for various competitor websites.
You may also take note of any particularly valuable, informative, or well-written copy found under each of these headings – all of which can be copied into your template doc and used as content inspiration during the body content writing phase if relevant.
8. Writing a Heading Hierarchy
Look through your list of competitor sites and heading hierarchies. Do you notice similarities between headings? What headings are repeated? What ones provide value?
Use the above information to pick and choose the best individual headings for your new page.
And if you’re in doubt, don’t worry. A generic formula along these lines customised to match your business and keyword should work:
H1 – Service/Product (including the focus keyphrase)
H2 – Include more detail of the H1 heading (specialists/locations)
H2 – What is the service//product?
H2 – Benefits of the service/product
H2 – Who may require this product/service
H2 – Process (If applicable)
H2 – Why choose the company
H2 – Customer reviews/
H2 – Contact Form (If applicable)
H2 – FAQs
Look over the headings you’ve selected and continue to work on building and refining a chronological, effective order that will be easy for users to navigate, and allow for good web design where relevant. For example, in most circumstances, it would make no sense to add additional info before discussing the product/service/business itself. Refer to the competitor research for guidance/inspiration.
9. Writing Your Page Content
You’re finally ready to start writing your body content! Use your knowledge from research and competitor sites to put together the best, most informative and action-inspiring webpage possible in line with any brand guidelines received.
Aim for at least 600 words excluding FAQs – but keep your audience at the forefront of your mind. If your reader would appreciate or be reassured by a significant amount of information, create a page in this format. On the other hand, if your reader is likely to want to make an immediate decision, keep your copy more concise with plenty of CTAs inserted nearer the top of the page.
Help search engines recognize the main theme of your content by using the primary keyword throughout the copy. As a best practice, use the term two to three times per 100 words to create a 2-3% keyword density. Try to avoid going over this limit to avoid keyword stuffing issues.
Show search engines that the page is closely related to the topic by bookending your copy with a mention of the primary keyword. Try to use the target keyword near the beginning of your first paragraph and within your final paragraph to reinforce what your content is about. This will help make it clear to search engines why your content is relevant.
Writing high-quality content doesn’t always mean producing a super complex webpage.
In fact, it means the opposite. Write your content for an eighth-grade reading level on the Flesch Reading Scale. That means using common terminology (not complex industry jargon) and writing short sentences and paragraphs. Use active voice primarily, and make sure writing is structured with appropriate paragraph breaks (every time the focus of discussion changes within the context of the heading you are working underneath), syntax and punctuation.
Links help search engines connect and understand online content. Add relevant internal links to other pages on your site, and when possible, use the linked page’s target keyword as the anchor text for the link.
Craft original, valuable content. Don’t copy content that is already published on your site or published on any other sites. Search engines may penalize your site or not rank your page if it has content that is copied or duplicated from other sites.
10. Boost Rankings With Optimised FAQs
Time to round off your document with a set of between 5 and 10 FAQs. FAQs are a great SEO tool – giving you an opportunity to add a huge amount of highly relevant content to your page. They’re a great way to draw in users highly interested in your product or service who aren’t necessarily aware of your business. For example, imagine your car is making a strange rattling noise. Your first port of call is to google ‘Why is my car making a rattling sound?’. The first result is a google snippet explaining that it might be your air conditioning. You click on the link and are taken through to a comprehensive answer from a local garage with a CTA to book an air-con check-up at the end. Sold!
To find commonly searched questions and answers for your page, you can:
(If applicable) open Google Search Console and select the domain you’re working on. Click performance. Ensure your date is set to ‘16 months’ to gain as much data and insight as possible. Click new – query – and add a question word such as ‘why’ ‘how’ ‘what’ and ‘when’ to bring up potential FAQs.
Search some of your keywords on Answer the Public to view FAQs in a mindmap format.
Search your keywords within KWFinder and sort by ‘questions’ in the results section.
Search any of the questions you’ve sourced above in Google, and note any relevant ones appearing in the ‘people also ask’ section in the SERP
Use the knowledge you’ve built during this process to answer these FAQs with between 100 and 200 words of valuable, informative, and original content. Remember, FAQs are SEO tools and should appear in featured snippets – meaning they shouldn’t be blatantly biased towards your business. They should instead aim to effectively answer the user’s query.
Your FAQs will always be placed under an FAQ H2 Header at the very bottom of the page and should be included wherever possible – e.g. service pages and homepages. They’re not typically included on the content not set to rank – e.g. contact us, case studies or meet the team pages.
What webpage would be complete without a review? A fantastic way to self-reflect on the work you’ve produced is to read it back to yourself out loud. Do you run out of breath before a sentence finishes? Does what you’ve written really make sense grammatically? Does the tone sound appropriate for webpage, brand, and industry? Would you want to read it?
After you’re happy with the page, you’re ready to upload, sit back, and benefit from the brilliant effects of SEO copywriting! Enjoy!
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