One of the revolutions brought about by the birth of the internet certainly concerns writing for the web. What is SEO writing? What are the objectives behind this strategy?
In this post, we will try to answer these questions, starting from the very origins of search engines and looking at the most relevant factors when writing a blog post for SEO. Finally, we’ll look at the differences compared to optimization for voice search.
In a previous post, we talked about contemporary copywriting, introducing the concept of SEO copywriting. By providing the opportunity to reach a wide, diverse audience, the internet is an effective marketing tool. As such, it has changed how we write for online; SEO writing is the way that we have adapted to this new means of communication.
SEO writing consists of writing text that is optimized for search engines, with the aim of improving the positioning of a site in the search engine results page (SERP) and increasing its visibility. Search engines are the reason that SEO writing exists. So, before we go any further, let’s briefly retrace the steps of the birth of search engines.
The origins of search engines and SEO writing
History teaches us that the first prototype search engine dates back to 1990: we are talking about Archie (from the word “archive”), invented by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University. Archie was limited to cataloging files contained on public FTP servers on the internet. We can say that Archie was the starting point that led us to today’s search engines.
In 1994, immediately after the birth of the World Wide Web, Aliweb (Archie Like Indexing for the Web) was launched with the aim of collecting all the existing sites in the world, including short descriptions of the pages and some keywords. With the increase of sites and the consequent growth of the web, new search engines began to develop in line with the requirements of the period.
Also in 1994, two Stanford University students, Jerry Yang and David Filo, created a list of their favorite hobby sites, dividing them into categories and subcategories. Their idea was successful on campus, leading them to push it out on the web: thus Yahoo was born.
The 1990s were a fundamental period for the development of SEO. However, it was around 1997 before website optimization was talked about, which would involve the structure, texts, and images so that they could be easily found by search engines. Today, the term “search engine optimization” is still attributed to John Audette (searchengineland.com).
Around the same time, perhaps the world’s most used search engine was born: Google.
Google, initially called “Backrub”, was invented by two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, with the goal of cataloging and making accessible the largest number of websites. Their Network Theory was based on the concept that the sites that contained the most links were the most important. This was the basis for the founding of Google in 1998 and for the creation of algorithms capable of identifying and positioning websites in SERPs.
SEO writing comes from the need to write following the guidelines of website optimization. What are the secrets and useful tools for writing content online?
SEO writing: 3 factors to consider before you get started
A recent study by Microsoft lists SEO and copywriting among the 5 most popular marketing skills in 2020, making SEO writing an indispensable tool for any digital marketing strategy. We can say that the blog post is the most complete and complex expression of SEO writing. The goal of writing a blog post is to create valuable content that is engaging and respects the parameters of SEO.
Before you start writing, it is important to conduct a keyword search. This allows us to understand which words are the most searched for by our target audience and to identify topics to implement in our content strategy. Semrush or Google Keywords are just some of the many tools for keyword search, which must be done regularly in order to keep up with the latest search trends.
However, it’s not enough to only focus on keyword search. In fact, according to Hubspot, writing blog posts that are related to your activities of interest and on topics of interest to your audience are what allow you to gain relevance and authority, thus boosting your ranking in search results. Start from a main topic (topic cluster) and divide it into subtopics (content clusters) that will be covered in other blog posts in order to create a relationship between all of the content.
Another factor to take into account in SEO writing is the user intent, i.e. the needs behind the user search. As well as for sales, understanding the interests and needs of users is essential for writing relevant content that responds directly and precisely to the questions they ask. What are our buyer personas looking for? Which keywords do they use for their searches?
Analyzing the user intent means putting oneself in the users’ shoes to offer them the content they need, thus also optimizing the user experience. In this regard, Google has analyzed the user intent, defining the moments when a person relies on internet search to satisfy an immediate need:
- the “I want to know” moments, when he makes cognitive searches, but not necessarily with the intent to buy something;
- the “I want to go” moments, when he is looking for a store or reflecting on the purchase of a product nearby;
- the “I want to do” moments, when he wants to know how to perform a certain action or try something new;
- the “I want to buy” moments, when he wants to buy a product and needs help to understand which, when and where to buy it.
This analysis allows us to understand how important it is to be present on the web and offer quality content that is in line with the different needs and micro-moments of users. SEO writing must focus not only on optimization rules, but also on people, which is why it must be engaging, clear, and direct. How to combine these two needs?
The characteristics of SEO writing
We have analyzed the factors to consider before starting to write a blog post, but how should it be structured in order to be considered optimized?
The first element to think about is the main title, which in SEO is identified with H1. The title must be clear and concise and must contain the main keyword. It is important to underline that H1 is generally different from the SEO title (title tag), the clickable title that appears in the search results, which must be short and persuasive, at a length of about 60/70 characters.
The SEO title is accompanied by the meta description, a text of about 160 characters that describes the topic of the blog post and serves to convince the user to click on the link. The H1 must be followed by an introduction that presents the topics that will be covered in the blog post. The introduction must be clear and outline the path that will be followed until the conclusion, to encourage the user to keep reading.
In SEO writing, paragraphs and subparagraphs of the text must follow a hierarchy based on their relevance. For example, the main paragraphs have H2 as their header and the sub-paragraphs are classified as H3. This subdivision is important not only for SEO optimization but also because it visually organizes the text, making it easier to read to keep the reader’s attention.
As for the conclusion, it must summarize the main message of the blog post and it is important that it contains a convincing call-to-action, according to the goals you want to achieve (e.g. comment, download a piece of content, share, purchase, subscribe). The conclusion can be, therefore, food for thought for the user, can inspire and encourage him to go deeper in the topic.
These are just some guidelines for writing a blog post. However, SEO is constantly evolving to respond to new behaviors and new user needs. Voice research is the most recent demonstration of this evolution: what influence does it have on copywriting?
How to optimize a text for voice search?
The increasing use of voice recognition devices has changed the way we search the web. To react to this new user behavior, new content optimization strategies must be adopted. This means that copywriting must also adapt and follow new SEO inputs.
Google voice search requires a clear and concise answer. The biggest challenge is to formulate a concise text in a question-answer perspective (e.g. following the FAQ structure) that includes long-tail keywords. According to a Backlinko search, a voice search result consists of 29 words on average.
Another interesting aspect from this study concerns the main keyword: only 1.7% of search results contain the keyword in the title tag. This means that, by previously analyzing content, Google proposes a result that can respond more consistently to the query, regardless of the presence or absence of the keyword in the title tag. We can therefore say that the optimization of the title tag we talked about previously does not have the same relevance for voice search SEO.
Moreover, we must take into account that voice search is much more direct and requires a colloquial tone, one that is more natural and simple than the one used for traditional content search.
Since most voice searches are done via smartphone, here are some tips for creating search friendly content that is optimized for mobile:
- use short titles (about 7 words);
- make paragraphs no more than 2 or 3 sentences;
- use sub-paragraphs and bulleted and numbered lists (forbes.com).
Writing in an SEO perspective certainly has positive consequences for the positioning and visibility of a brand online, but the biggest risk of this activity is to give more space to the rules than the final reading. The goal to be achieved is the user; the content is the means to involve him, capture his interest and bring him closer to the brand. Writing with these concepts in mind is essential for optimizing your strategy.