May 6, 2020 | seo | No Comments
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Are you struggling to bring in a steady stream of high-converting organic traffic?
Without SEO copywriting, you’re going to fail in two ways…
- Your content won’t rank for quality keywords
- Your content won’t turn visitors into buyers
That’s why SEO copywriting is one of the most impactful things you can learn today for your business.
In this post, I’m going to walk through some of the best examples of SEO copywriting on the web, show you direct comparisons of copy performance in A/B tests, and give you 15 actionable takeaways you can use right now to boost rankings, increase engagement, and convert more readers into buyers.
Since this is a very comprehensive guide, I’ve included a table of contents below:
What is SEO Copywriting?
Copywriting in SEO is the art and science of striking a balance between content that persuades and content Google can find/understand.
You’ll rarely see spammy titles and descriptions in Google results anymore. For example, you’re way less likely to get a title that says ‘Removal Service Boston Removal Service Florida Removal Service’ than you are a genuinely compelling and readable title like ‘Find the cheapest Boston removal services’.
On one side, there’s on-page SEO – the part of SEO that’s relevant here: the practice of understanding which signals the Google algorithm uses, and helping it rank your content for the right keywords:
On the flip side, there’s copywriting.
Copywriting has been around for centuries, and has been refined by advertising greats like David Ogilvy and John Caples, as well as living legends like Gary Bencivenga.
SEO copywriting is writing to persuade, convert, and sell.
Good copy gets clicks, shares, and opens. Bad copywriting gets swept under the rug:
Now we’ve got our definitions out of the way, let’s break down what you’ll learn in this article:
- Effective copywriting to get attention, clicks, and conversions
- The on-page optimization Google actually cares about
- How to strike a balance and write for humans and Google
Why should you care?
Let’s look a little deeper…
Why is SEO Copywriting Important?
When done right, SEO copywriting provides value in two core areas:
- Boost rankings for the right terms:
- Get readers to take action:
To be clear, you’re using the terms your buyer is searching for (SEO), hooking them with the perfect content (copywriting), and getting results ($$$).
Compared to things like link building, SEO audits and content promotion (which require a lot of resources to execute) SEO copywriting is a high-leverage strategy.
(i.e. changing just a few words on a page can have a HUGE impact on your traffic and conversions.)
This simple diagram from Neville Medhora sums it perfectly:
Putting the right keywords in the right places in your content can have a direct impact on rankings and website traffic…
While changing just a few words on a page can have a HUGE impact on your conversions.
Here are a few examples of small copy changes having a big impact on the bottom line:
Moz boosted organic traffic by 32% with a few SEO copywriting tweaks
This example from Moz is the result of three minor SEO copywriting tweaks applied across their top ranking content.
Here are the copy changes:
- Add H2s and H3s to improve page architecture, readability, and crawlability (+14% boost)
- Change the H1 and title to target a higher traffic keyword (+9% boost)
- Add an image and video to increase time-on-page and visual appeal (+9% boost)
By applying these on-page copy techniques to over 200 of their top pages, Moz broke through a traffic plateau and saw a 32% traffic increase in organic traffic.
Highrise boosted conversions by 30% with a single headline tweak
It’s a time-tested copywriting truism that the most prominent element on the page should be the most persuasive.
So, instead of simply calling a visitor to action and burying the offer in the second line, Highrise made it crystal clear to users that there was zero risk in creating an account.
Here’s version A:
Here’s version B (+30% conversion!):
By using a guarantee and making the user feel as if they’re not going to lose out, Highrise won the reader’s attention and increased conversions.
If you’re running copywriting A/B tests, the headline is the most impactful place to start. As David Ogilvy said, 80% of people only read the headline.
Let’s keep this train moving…
Brian Dean lifted organic traffic 45.52% by changing an article title
Even if you do manage to get content on the first page, there’s no guarantee you’re going to outperform other articles vying for the searcher’s attention. While it’s often thought that getting the #1 spot is a surefire way to rake in a ton of targeted organic traffic, Brian Dean shows us all that it’s not the only thing that matters.
Here’s the two test variables he set up:
By using emotional triggers and curiosity (and still keeping the ‘seo campaign’ keyword), Brian Dean saw a big lift in clickthrough rates for his article after just 7 days:
Starting to see the whole little-effort-big-results thing yet? 🙂
Check out this next one…
California Closets improved lead volume 115% by matching ad and landing page copy
A massive part of copywriting is playing up to your user’s expectations. When they read your ad copy or title, they expect to get specific information, offers or products on the page they click through to. If there’s a disconnect, the user will be confused, and confused users don’t buy.
This A/B test from California Closets proves that claim perfectly.
Here’s version A (matched messaging with ad copy):
Here’s version B (generic copy):
The copy on version A matched the ad copy exactly, so when readers landed they realized they were in the right place. This is a very subtle tweak, that generated a significant increase in conversions.
Here is another great example of message match from the folks over at GEICO. Take a look at the language used in both the title tag and meta description:
And now look at the strong message match on the landing page:
There is an important lesson here, even for the most experienced search and conversion rate experts – the sales funnel consists of many different elements and touch points, making them work together is critical to success.
Ok, let’s take a closer look at how you can use SEO copywriting techniques to get more leads, conversions, and sales.
SEO Copywriting Technique #1: Use the ‘Inverted Pyramid’ Technique to Reduce Bounce Rates
The concept behind the inverted pyramid is simple:
You don’t end with the conclusion, you start with it. No one can be bothered to wait around for you to get the point.
Let’s take a look at how this works in practice:
NNGROUP’S Eye-Tracking Study Reveals How People Read Your Content
Take a look at these heat maps that show the places reader’s eyes go after landing on a website:
Readers lose patience after the first two paragraphs, after which point they start to scan down the page and see if anything else grabs their attention .
Here are the points in each where the reader starts giving up:
You need to create content structured in a way where readers can still read in this F-shaped pattern (squint at the heatmaps), understand the content, and get hooked in to read more.
The usability masters at NNGroup recommend three ways to do this:
- Understand readers will never read your text properly, so don’t bury the lede
- State your most important information in the first two paragraphs
- ‘Front-load’ your title, subheads and sentences with key information
Let’s take a look at this SEO copywriting principle in action…
Use Brian Dean’s “APP” Method to Write a Compelling Intro
There’s no denying Brian Dean’s posts are among the most readable on the web. And that’s no accident.
He has a winning format for writing compelling intros.
It’s what he calls the ‘APP method’:
First up, you write a paragraph the reader will agree with. Usually this will be outlining a problem they’re having if they’re reading your article.
Then, you make a promise. You say how you’ve used these same tactics to blast your conversion rate up by a million percent, and how it totally works.
Then, you give them a preview. This sentence will start with ‘In this article…’
Check it out in action:
This method works like the time-tested sales letters of the direct response age. In fact, it’s exactly the same!That particular framework was honed over almost a century, and is used today in formats such as landing pages, blog posts, and, of course, paper mail.
Here it is in a classic sales letter written for Agora Financial:
It’s become a refined formula over the years, and — if you can use it properly — it proves that long copy sells.
SEO Copywriting Technique #2: Optimize for “Answer Engines” (and Draw High- Intent Traffic)
Search engines are answer engines.
Before the internet, if you wanted an answer to a specific question, you’d have to read a book or ask someone with experience.
And, if your question was product related, the answer often came from a salesperson.
Times have changed. Power has shifted from the seller to the buyer:
Today, up to 90% of the B2B buyer journey is over before a lead speaks to a sales rep, and around 8% of all online searches are question-based.
Therefore, one of the best ways to increase organic traffic and conversions is produce content that answers specific stakeholder questions at each stage of the funnel.
How do you find these questions?
Here’s a couple ways:
Enter a product or service related keyword into the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool and select the Questions tab:
Scan down the list of the keywords and place a check mark next to any relevant terms:
These topics can be targeted with many different mediums, including blog posts and FAQs on product/ category pages.
2) Mine “People Also Ask”
Install the Scraper Chrome extension and enter a product/service keyword into the Google search bar.
Scroll down to the People Also Ask box:
This accordion shows the exact questions your audience is searching for answers to online.
Note: the People Also Ask box will usually default to 4-5 results. You can expand the results by simply clicking on one of the questions a few times:
Once you’ve expanded the list to 20+ results, right click on one of the questions and select Scrape Similar:
The extension will extract all the questions and answers from the People Also Ask box:
Copy the data and paste it into an excel document and filter out all the answers:
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – ecommerce, affiliate, services, local business etc – this strategy can be used to generate hundreds of content ideas that span the entire buyer journey.
Bonus resource: check out #6 in this guide for a more in-depth walk through of how to use this tactic to rapidly scale the question-based keyword research process.
If you found this keyword research exercise useful, you should check out The SEO Playbook, my training course for intermediate to advanced SEOs.
SEO Copywriting Technique #3: Expand Your Organic Footprint with Secondary Keywords
Ahrefs conducted a study to see the average number of keywords a page ranking in the top 20 search results “also ranked for” (across 3 million different search queries):
The #1 ranking page will also rank in the top 10 for nearly 1,000 other relevant search terms.
SEMrush shows that The Wirecutter ranks for over 1.6M keywords and receives around 3.4M organic visits a month:
Click through to the Top Pages report and you’ll see that dozens of the site’s top performing posts are ranking for thousands of different keywords:
But, here’s the interesting part:
One of the site’s highest organic traffic review pages on “best vacuum cleaners” ranks for 4,600 different keywords:
Scroll down and you’ll see that the primary keyword, “best vacuum cleaner”, generates 15,557 organic visits a month to the article:
This means that 63% of the organic traffic to that article is generated by secondary keywords!
Optimizing content with secondary keywords is one the fastest ways to increase a page’s organic footprint and traffic potential.
Here’s how to do it:
1) Scrape competing articles
Enter a competing URL into SEMrush and go to the Organic Research >> Positions report:
Make sure the “As URL” option is selected from the dropdown. This will return all the keywords driving traffic to your competitor’s content.
In this case, if I was writing an affiliate review article on comparing coffee grinders, I’d be sure to include sections targeting the different types – ceramic, electric, conical etc.
Ignoring these terms would mean leaving hundreds of organic visits (and affiliate revenue) on the table each month.
Scan the list and check any terms you’d like to target:
Don’t export the selected keywords yet. Use the next tactic to expand the list further.
2) Find long tail (and semantic) terms
Enter your primary keyword into the SEMrush Keyword Magic tool:
SEMrush kicked back 1,826 different keyword ideas. On the left side, you’ll notice the keyword set is broken out by different modifiers such as conical, best, electric, ceramic etc. This feature is really helpful when it comes to extracting secondary topics from large keyword sets.
Toggle to the Related keywords report to find additional ideas:
Once you have compiled a list of secondary keywords, export and start incorporating them into key on-page elements – heading tags, body copy, article sub-sections etc.
For a more information on optimizing content for secondary keywords, check out this organic traffic tutorial.
If you found this keyword research exercise useful, you should check out The SEO Playbook, my training course for intermediate to advanced SEOs.
SEO Copywriting Technique #4: Write for Featured Snippets (and Rank in Position #0)
Ahrefs analyzed 2 million featured snippets and found that ~13% of all search results now return a featured snippet:
The study also found that featured snippets get 8.6% of the total clicks in the SERPs:
Google is increasing its “stickiness” by providing answers to popular questions directly inside the search results:
Getting featured snippets is one of fastest ways to increase organic traffic.
But, here’s the deal:
You need to understand which queries trigger the different types of featured snippets, and optimize your content accordingly.
- The different types of featured snippets
- How to find featured snippet opportunities on your site
- 5 ways to optimize content for featured snippet placements
Follow the steps in the guide and you could be ranking for loads of featured snippets:
SEO Copywriting Technique #5: Write a Kick-Ass, Optimized Title Tag
What do 100% of people read, but 80% disregard instantly?
Think of title tags as your headlines in the search results:
- Include your target keyword
- Set an expectation
- Entice users to click
The final bullet in that list is very important. You can’t get a conversion without winning the click.
Ahrefs found a small correlation between rankings and including keywords in the title tag:
Another study by WordStream showed a strong correlation between SERP CTRs and organic rankings:
Title tag optimization in a fundamental component of any SEO copywriting strategy.
It can help you win the click (and boost traffic) even if you’re not ranking in the #1 organic search position.
Here are a few examples to illustrate:
Simply Additions: “The Best Lawnmowers Exposed”!
As effective as this headline is, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me chuckle:
I mean, c’mon. Lawn mowers?!
This is one the dullest subjects on the planet and the title tag manages to make it interesting. It’s as if lawn mowers are some type of secret weapon for grass enthusiasts, but now they’ve finally been revealed for you.
Check out that description, too. Simply Additions has managed to make something sexy and scandalous out of the a pedestrian garden upkeep tool.
Copywriting techniques used:
- Brand name-dropping (Lowes, Home Depot)
- Power words (Best)
- Sensationalism (dirty secrets, exposed)
Look at it this way. The page is from 2012, has a drastically lower domain authority and isn’t as well optimized for the exact search term as other pages in the SERP.
Yet, it’s outranking Amazon! It could well be that the high click-through rate is keeping it there against all odds.
According to a Moz study, SERP engagement metrics are becoming a more heavily weighted ranking factor in search algorithms:
Let’s be honest… 90% of you are in boring niches. Don’t be afraid to add intrigue, sensationalism, and curiosity to your title tag to get better click-through rates. Read more on that here.
Quick-and-dirty title tag checklist:
- Length: 512 pixels.
- Keyword placement: Place most important keywords towards the front of the title tag, with least important semantics at the end.
- Relevancy: It accurately describes the content (strong message match).
- Avoid cannibalization: Ensure title tags are unique to each page, and that only one page on the site is optimized for a given keyword.
- No stuffing: Do NOT repeat the same word over and over.
- Use power words: includesensationalism, power words and emotional triggers to stop readers in their tracks (more on this later)
- Use action words: these terms help entice the user to take action (or click). Eg: Get, take, learn, go, download and boost.
- Avoid stop words: these include terms like: A, and, but, or, so, the, was, with.
- Highlight differentiators: tell people what makes your content unique. i.e. depth,, speed, freshness, actionable, brand.
- Add brackets/parenthesis: they break up the text and highlight specific sections of the title, which can improve readability.
Zendesk: “Beautifully Simple Help Desk Software”
Now let’s check out the messaging as it shifts between the user’s intent in Google, and their intent on the landing page:
From the success of this search result for the keyword ‘help desk software’, it shows the two different titles and the two different frame of mind users are in when they’re reading them.
The first — from the Google search result — is “Beautifully Simple Help Desk Software”. Zendesk is playing on the misconception that help desk software is ugly and hard to use with this title.
The second — from the landing page — is “A better customer experience starts with better help desk software”. This title inserts the keyword elegantly, and promises a benefit — a better experience for your customers.
Balancing the benefits of a product against the features is a time-tested copywriting technique. It’s a balance between explaining what your product can do, and what your buyer can get out of it.
People have little interest in having to get an extra piece of software to communicate with customers. What they really want is a better customer experience without the hassle of difficult-to-use software.
Write down what usually holds people back from buying your product, agitate the problem in your copy, then sell the benefits.
For software that can replace Microsoft Excel, start your headline with something like “Sick of slow spreadsheets?”, for example.
You cannot possibly write new title tags for hundreds of different posts and pages.
Prioritize title tag optimization across your top performing pages.
Here’s how to do it:
Paste your domain into the SEMrush SEO Toolkit and navigate to the Top Pages report.
This will show which pages receive the most organic traffic each month:
Focus on the top traffic pages. This is where you can have the biggest impact because a small increase in CTR can cause a significant boost in organic traffic.
SEO Copywriting Technique #6: Write a Compelling Meta Description (that Includes Your Parent Topic)
Meta descriptions are the next thing people read after the title. It appears under every search result, like this:
Why is it important?
If you have written an awesome title, and your meta description is trash, you’re killing your chances of getting the click.
Because not only are you failing to persuade the searcher that your link has the most value, you’re actually telling Google that your link doesn’t deserve its ranking.
Let me phrase that differently:
For every link that gets clicked on the first page that isn’t yours, it hurts your ranking potential.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Meta descriptions like this:
Will often appear when people share your content across other websites and social media channels:
Meta descriptions not only have an impact on SERP engagement, they also impact engagement across other marketing channels.
Don’t just take your chances on whatever Google decides to pull up from your article as the meta description. Use a tool like Yoast to give yourself full control over it for every post and page you create:
Yoast also analyzes content for keyword optimization and helps you stay within the character limits.
Meta descriptions should be:
- Inspire curiousity
- Match the searcher’s intent
- 156 characters or less
Let’s look at a couple examples.
Live Bold and Bloom: How to Stop Procrastinating
This meta description ticks most (if not all) of the boxes:
It’s descriptive because it tells you how many ways to stop procrastinating will be in the article. It’s persuasive because it sells the benefits of its teachings (be motivated, more productive, get things done).
And most of all, it’s in line with the searcher’s intent.
It’s not how to stop procrastinating and walk the dog. It’s not how to stop procrastinating and buy a printer…
It locks in with exactly what the searcher wants, which is to get more done!
While meta descriptions are not a ranking signal for Google, they are an important element of the search experience, directly impacting SERP engagement.
If your keyword is in the meta description, Google will often bold it.
Take a look at the average SERP. Apart from the knowledge graph and rich snippets, the title tag, URL and meta description are the three components that make up your search result, and are the 3 elements searchers use in deciding whether to click through to your site or not:
The meta description takes up the most space, contains the most information, and will be read longer. Don’t waste this precious SERP real estate!
This is eye-catching for a skim-reader, and quickly shows them that your article is relevant. This increases SERP click-through rates, which does impact rankings.
As Dr. Pete Myers wrote back in 2012:
The first metric I think Google makes broad use of is direct Click-Through Rate (CTR) from the SERPs themselves. Whether or not a result gets clicked on is one of Google’s and Bing’s first clues about whether any given result is a good match to a query. We know Google and Bing both have this data, because they directly report it to us.
Both Google and Bing look at and report on this data:
As Myers puts it: “Relevant results drive more clicks”.
A couple more examples to highlight the importance of a good meta description:
Good example – “best burgers in London”:
The target keyword is highlighted in the description, “mouth-watering” descriptive language is used to hook the reader, and the fact that experts have tested the food implies credibility in the article.
Bad example – “best burgers in London”:
The target search term is not bold, negative language leaves a bad taste in your mouth (no pun intended), and it fails to align closely with the search intent – people don’t care about the history, they want to know where they can sink their teeth into a delicious burger right now.
If you’ve left your meta-descriptions up to chance in the past, it’s time to install the Yoast SEO plugin and get to work! It’s well worth it when you can stop your meta-descriptions looking like this:
Improve your meta description, boost your CTR and climb the rankings.
Note: check out this post for a complete list of the best SEO plugins for WordPress.
iSPONIAGE: Adwords body copy A/B test
I’m going to prove now that meta descriptions do matter for SEO copywriting with some cold, hard facts:
iSpionage published the results of an A/B test where they changed the body copy and kept the headline the same.
Here’s the two variations:
Can you guess what happened?
The top variation outperformed the bottom one by 42.86%.
Why do you think that is?
At a glance, the top ad gives you the benefit right away. One glance and you know that iSpionage helps you find profitable keywords faster. A direct benefit to the end user.
Surely that’s more valuable than why PPC experts trust and blah blah blah. Apparently, it’s 42.86% more valuable 🙂
A/B test your PPC ads and meta descriptions. You’ve got nothing to lose by running tests, and you’re not going to get anywhere near as much insight reading other people’s best practices and trying to apply them. The only person who can find out what works best for your business is you — with experimentation. Here’s how to do it.
SEO Copywriting Technique #7: NEVER Overlook the Importance of the First Sentence
Listen to Joseph Sugarman. He’s one of the best copywriters of all time, and here’s what he says:
Your copy should be a slippery slope.
Your copy should drag readers down the page, enticing them, giving them value, and keeping them from bouncing.
Your readers should be so compelled to read your copy that they cannot stop reading until they read all of it as if sliding down a slippery slope.
Here is a famous example from legendary copywriter John Caples published in the 1920s:
A descriptive image and a headline that sucks you into finding out what happens next. This open loop leads into a compelling story that would appeal to anyone wanting to learn how to play the piano.
A more modern example of Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch course:
Ramit starts with a powerful headline that grabs your attention. It then pulls you further down the page with a compelling subheadline, and agitates the pain point many people have – ditching the 9-to-5 and creating a more flexible lifestyle where you aren’t selling your time for money.
Not to mention he uses some pretty compelling social proof to hook the reader 🙂
Pretty cool, right?
Here’s a more simplified version of Noah Kagan’s Monthly 1K course:
Who doesn’t want to create a $1,000 month business?
The headline is clear, the sub headline agitates a pain point of entrepreneurs who have failed in the past, and hooks the reader by proposing a proven formula for success that can be applied to any industry or business type.
Headlines aren’t the only way to get your readers on a slippery slope…
Another great way to hook ’em early is write a bad-ass first sentence, like this:
Who could refuse that, right?
As Dean Evans says, an opening line exists purely to draw your eyes to the second line, and the second line’s job is to make you read the third.
Here’s why you should care about this from an SEO perspective:
If you don’t hook your reader within 15 seconds — probably the time it takes to read the first sentence and look at the header image — they’re gone. And when Google notices a reader dropping off your site without reading the content, they’ll drop you.
Dean Evans advises you to make sure your opening sentence uses one of the following devices:
- Curiosity (“You’ll never guess what happened to me this morning, before I even had my coffee…”)
- Question (“Did you know there are just two things you can do to avoid getting penalized by Google?”)
- Empathy (“I bet you wish you were a super hero.”)
- Surprise (“Everything you’ve ever heard about how much sleep you need is wrong.”)
- Statistics (“16% of startups don’t make it past the first two years.”)
And another good tactic he uses is to just delete your first paragraph. Depending on how you edit your content, you might spend the first few lines rambling and get to the good stuff later. See what works for you.
Here’s another example:
Hiten Shah’s bombshell opener
“Two tweets about raising money was all it took to get 81 email responses and 53 customer development calls with founders…”
If that doesn’t make you go “how the hell did he do that?!”, I don’t know what will.
This fantastic opener uses hard numbers , surprise, and curiosity in a single sentence to hook the reader (and draw them to the next sentence) It makes the readers ask what the tweets were, who all these people are, and what’s the rest of the story?
The title draws people in who feel vulnerable about their ability to raise money, and then the opening line establishes Hiten Shah as a true authority who really knows what he’s doing.
After all, Hiten has started three SaaS companies – KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg and Quicksprout.
The article also uses storytelling, which is an important copywriting element every human being on the planet can relate to.
In fact, it’s in our DNA to enjoy stories and it’s something we’ve been doing since we learned to etch animal drawings into caves in France 30,000 years ago.
Use the above checklist a few times when you write your opening sentences. It’ll make sure you hit one of the elements needed to push readers down the slippery slope to your call to action.
SEO Copywriting Technique #8: Use Message Matching (or Get a Huge Bounce Rate)
Lunch time? You’ll love this analogy:
Writing for WordStream, Raphael Paulin-Daigle explains message matching brilliantly…
Let’s say you’re hungry and want burritos. You leave your office and take a stroll down the street to find a place to eat a burrito. You find one, but as soon as you step inside, you get a surprise: the odor of alfredo sauce and pizza dough. Turns out the restaurant, advertised as a burrito shop from the outside, is an Italian restaurant inside. Bummer. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Disappointed, you leave to go find something else.
If you’re giving off the wrong signals in your title and meta description, you’re basically a burrito shop that doesn’t serve burritos. And you better believe that place has a high bounce rate.
Wrike: Mismatched messaging for competitor keywords
You’ve seen this one before:
Type any product name into Google and you get their competitors buying ads and slamming them.
Here’s Wrike trying to catch Basecamp leads:
The landing page on its own is fine — a classic example that makes no mistakes. The PPC ad that took me there, however…
Well, just check the URL. The slug is basecamp-vs-wrike. When I land here, I’d like to at least get one reason that I shouldn’t choose Basecamp! And don’t think I’m trying to distort the truth either, because what I’m showing you above is 100% of the landing page.
In my opinion, that’s not how you steal leads off Basecamp. People searching Basecamp are already moving beyond the middle of the funnel. Navigational keywords indicate the searcher has an idea what they want, and why they want it, so they’re not going to fall for a platform that doesn’t attempt to differentiate itself in the slightest.
Look over your PPC ads, and pretend to be the buyer using the search term you’re targeting. Decide: are they really looking for your landing page, or do you just desperately want to get them there?
The same holds true for SEO. Make sure the copy in your title tag and meta description sets an accurate expectation for the user. Otherwise, you’ll see high bounce rates, low dwell times, and give Google a really good reason not to reward your content with good rankings.
Plan.io: Message matching done right (in the simplest way possible)
How can you avoid confusing and alienating visitors, you ask?
It’s stupidly simple…
Use the same copy on your ad as you do in your landing page.
Plan.io knows the score:
While the copy isn’t broken up into chunks for readability, you can quickly scan it and realize that you’re just being sold on the same features you wanted when you clicked through on the PPC ad.
It’s a technical and specialized product, so it’s written for people who know what they want and optimized for people who search workflow knowing full well what features they’re looking for. The copy under the button is also top notch, because a common limitation with SaaS product free versions is that the features are locked out. Anyone who was unsure about hitting that big green CTA has had their worries put aside.
Use the same phrases in your title and body copy as you do in your landing page. Don’t make new offers, put a twist on it, or use generic landing pages for specific copy.
SEO Copywriting Technique #9: Mimic Your Ideal Customer’s Language
If you know the language your ideal customer uses, you’re going to be able to make a connection with them that other marketers aren’t.
It’s not just for keyword research. Using language that rings true with your market helps persuade and convert.
It’s simple to find the language your target market uses. As the old marketing rule goes, you just need to find the place they hang out.
Here’s a few:
- People Also Ask results
- Forums (use a forum search engine like BoardReader)
- Reddit (search their list of subreddits)
- Blog comments
Brian Dean noticed while browsing SEO forums that people often asked ‘why does Google hate my site?‘. He capitalized on this by writing a post targeting those keywords.
If people are asking a question in a forum, you can be pretty sure they didn’t get a straight answer from the search engines.
In short, it’s a gold mine.
Let’s look at the example:
Brian Dean: “Google Hates My Site”
Brian is known for going after big keywords.
Things like ‘backlinks’ and ‘SEO tips’. He eats them for breakfast.
So why did he target something low traffic like ‘Google hates my site’? The answer is because he saw that the exact niche community he targets uses that phrase regularly in forums.
Check this out:
The thing is…
Brian didn’t then go and write a post to target that little keyword. Instead, he noticed it whilst writing another post about TrustRank. He optimized the title tag so he could both rank for his target term and draw in that niche SEO audience he noticed on the forums.
SEO copywriting at its finest. Not only does it catch the first page for its target keyword, it also hits the emotional triggers and pain points of the searcher:
Go to Quora, and look at questions listed under the topic of your latest post. Does your post answer or relate to any of them? Add semantic keywords used by your audience and include them in the title, or create a section in the post related to the topic.
SEO Copywriting Technique #10: ALWAYS Call the Reader to Action
Here’s a simple one that a lot of people seem to overlook:
If you don’t ask for something, you’re not going to get it.
Not using a call to action in your title, description, landing page, or blog post? Your reader won’t know what they’re supposed to do next.
You’ve put a ton of work into the copy, and by the end of it, the reader is sold and looking to click a big button saying ‘GIVE ME THIS!’… What if it’s not there? Are they going to spend more than 5 seconds looking for it?
They’re going to press back, go to the next Google result and hit that call to action somewhere else instead.
A/B Test: Using a Call to Action vs. No Call to Action
No surprises here:
Variation A tells you what it is you’re clicking on. Variation B, on the other hand, tells you why you should click it, which is much more effective — especially with a call to action to learn more at the end.
The outcome? Version B boosted clicks by 2666%!
A good way to implement this to improve your SEO is to ask visitors and searchers to click-through to your article in search, and to share it. Both click-through rate and social sharing are Google ranking signals.
robbierichards.com: Build email lists with in-content CTAs
In 2018, I launched my premium SEO training program, The SEO Playbook.
In effort to quickly build a course launch waitlist, I decided to add personalized in-content CTAs at the top and middle of all my high-traffic SEO content:
Here’s one in my SEO case study:
Without spending any money on ads, I was able to build the wait list to over 600 people in a few months:
The CTAs took me about 30 minutes to add to all the relevant posts, and ended up generated close to 50 sales.
I’ve started replicating the same strategy at the end of post introductions to accelerate the growth of my email list:
Mention: Get more shares by Asking for a tweet
In all of their posts, Mention extracts the key points and then sprinkles ‘click to tweet’ calls to action throughout.
It’s not just passive sharing buttons on the right-hand side of the page, but several targeted calls to action throughout meaning that readers have a chance to tweet a quote that resonates with them.Tweeting quotes is a popular thing to do because it makes users feel like they’re gaining the respect of their peers, and helps them build self confidence.
But, don’t just stop there…
Add sectional share links within your articles:
This makes it easy for readers to share your content continuously as they are reading down the page. This tactic has helped me generate over 20,000 social shares with just 15 blog posts:
Apart from the engagement signals, the increased social sharing helps get more eyeballs on your content, which often leads to more traffic and links.
SEO Copywriting Technique #11: Use Battle-Tested Formulas for Your Headlines and Sub-Headlines
You know the best place to find SEO copywriting?
Google search results and landing pages.
We’ve looked a lot at Google search results so far, but now we’re going to focus on landing pages.
You don’t have as many words at your disposal on a landing page as you do in a blog post, so you had better make them count. Especially since landing pages need to be the most high-converting pages on your site.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples first to get an idea of the anatomy:
- Call to action
- Image that conveys value
- Call to action
- Image that conveys value
From these two examples, you’ve pretty much got the idea of what a landing page consists of. A quick glance at the product, some finely tuned copy on the benefits, and a call to action.
In a study of 87 SaaS startup landing pages, Benjamin Brandall found that while landing pages do share some major similarities, most make a few grave mistakes:
- 61% of headlines do not sell the benefits of the software
- 42% of headlines contain jargon
- 80% of headlines use no social proof
More importantly, however, the study found that every single landing page headline in the data set could be boiled down to 9 formulas.
The 9 Proven landing Page Headline Formulas
- [product] for [target] (Project tracking for distributed companies)
- The [superlative] way to [goal] (The Fastest Way to Tackle Twitter as a Team)
- [imperative] [benefit] (Send Email That Converts)
- [Better [purpose] (Better user onboarding)
- [product] that [benefit] (Payroll and benefits that put people first)
- [benefit]. [benefit]. (Get More Leads. Drive Better Engagement.)
- [benefit] without [drawback] (Build, Publish & A/B Test Landing Pages Without I.T.)
- [question] (Do you need more customers?)
- [purpose] (Bar Inventory in 15 min.)
Make an A/B test right now for your current landing page, testing your original headline against one of these formulas.
SEO Copywriting Technique #12: Skyrocket Time on Page and Engagement
RankBrain and other machine learning elements within Google’s core algorithm reward pages with high user engagement.
i.e. Google looks for content with exceptional user engagement signals – organic CTR, time on page, dwell time, bounce rate and conversion rate – and rewards them with higher search rankings.
WordStream did a study where it compared organic pageviews to average time on page before and after the Google RankBrain algorithm update.
Here are the results:
Time on Site vs. Organic Pageviews (Before RankBrain)
Before the RankBrain update, about ⅓ of the top organic traffic pages had a below average time on site (marked by the red arrows).
Now let’s look at the results after the RankBrain update…
Time on Site vs. Organic Pageviews (After RankBrain)
All but two of the top traffic pages had an above average time on site.
Google is using engagement signals like time on site to help its machine learning algorithms determine the best results for different search queries:
“Google is now integrating machine learning into [the process of figuring out what the relationship between a search and the best page for that search is]. So then training models on when someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back or when they and trying to figure out exactly on that relationship.”
– Nick Frost, Head of Google Brain
It’s more important than ever to write for humans over search engines. This means prioritizing user experience over all else during the SEO copywriting process.
Don’t hide information behind huge walls of text:
What you’re looking at here is the difference between scannable text (2) and something very few people have the patience to read (1).
The features of scannable text include:
- One sentence paragraphs
- Short enticing lines that draw the eye further down the page (Well…)
- Bullet points
But it’s not all about the copy. (As much as copywriters would love to believe.)
Buildzoom increased Time On page by 150% by using multimedia
This really is one simple trick that will improve your search rankings. Since Google looks to bounce rate and time on page as an indication of quality, you need to be taking advantage of the lessons learned from this A/B test:
While working at PRWeb, Jiyan Naghshineh Wei found that pages with multimedia outperformed pages without by about 30 seconds (from 2:18 to 2:47). As well as this, he found that 90% of bloggers and journalists reported that images improved the reception of their media releases.
Taking these lessons and applying them to BuildZoom — a marketplace for contractor jobs — he first started by replacing the generic image people get when they don’t have a profile picture with building-related stock images, like this:
This increased time on page by 10%, but he wasn’t satisfied yet…
Since BuildZoom had started to build a library of remodeling images, they implemented a widget that showed visitors examples of remodeling work in their area.
Here’s the amazing part:
It rocketed time on page by 150%!
The lesson here? You need to keep users engaged with a variety of different visuals. Whether that’s well structured copy, images, or videos, do everything you can to boost time on page and watch the positive impact it has on your SEO.
Check out this on-page SEO guide for tactics to boost user engagement signals.
SEO Copywriting Technique #13: Use Numbers in Headlines to Skyrocket CTR
People are inherently attracted to numbers and lists. They are easy for the brain to process, and assure the reader the content will be easy to digest.
Which sounds better?
- Tips for growing better organic vegetables
- 7 tips for growing better organic vegetables
Option B. Why?
“Numbers work well in headlines because humans like predictability and dislike uncertainty” – Courtney Seiter, Buffer.
The thing is, our clicks are valuable.
No one wants to dive headfirst into an article not knowing whether it’s just 2 tips or 100 tips. What if I don’t have time for 100 tips! What if 2 tips isn’t enough?!
It makes people nervous if they don’t know exactly what they’re getting.
Using numbers in headlines is one of the best ways to boost your CTR and social share count.
Check this out:
The graph shows that headlines with numbers are 36% more popular.
Examples of successful headlines with numbers:
The most popular post on The Penny Hoarder, with an insane 1.3M social shares, is a list post:
While list posts make up the majority of examples, there are a lot of other ways to use numbers in headlines to improve CTRs.
You can use the “Too-Specific-to-be-Fake” number.
In a Google Ads test, the numbered headline variation below resulted in a 217% increase in CTR and 23% improvement in conversion rates:
Why does this type of numbered headline work so well?
In Secrets of Great Salespeople, Jeremy Raymond states:
“A research project showed that when a battery was claimed to last ‘up to two hours’ customers predicted that it would last, on average, 89 minutes; when the claim was presented as ‘up to 125 minutes’, customers’ predictions rose to 106 minutes.”
In other words, people don’t always believe in round numbers. By using such as an exact number, it can feel more real, and better catch the reader’s attention.
As you will see in the next section, there has never been more content competing for your reader’s attention – more content, more channels, more publishers all competing for attention and mind share. This means readers are extremely picky on what titles they decide to click on in the SERPs.
Humans don’t like uncertainty.
To increase CTRs and engagement, you should also remove ambiguity from your headlines:
Using the data above, instead of writing a heading like “What are natural remedies to remove cellulite?” (question headlines are least preferred)…
Try something a little more concrete like this one from the folks at Health Ambition:
There is zero ambiguity in the headline. The readers knows exactly what they will get from the article.
BuzzFeed has found a tremendous amount of success with number-based headlines:
If you visit Buzzfeed’s front page, you’ll probably see something like this:
In the book Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath found based on their research that ideas stick for 6 reasons, one of which is that it’s concrete. That’s part of the psychology behind why numbers in headlines work so well.
Peep Laja from ConversionXL puts it well:
“People won’t remember vague stuff. What helps people understand new concepts is concrete language. Concreteness is an indispensable component of sticky ideas. Don’t say ‘fast acceleration’, say 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.”
SEO Copywriting Technique #14: Stop “Skimmers” in Their Tracks and Boost Reader Engagement
Steve Krug said it best in his book, “Don’t Make Me Think“:
We don’t read pages. We scan them.
Author, “Don’t Make Me Think”
Humans are said to have a shorter attention span than goldfish.
The days where people read your article from start to finish are all but gone. In fact, only 16% of people will read every word in your article.
Every man and their dog knows that in order to make text more readable, it should include images, be broken out into shorter sentences and include easy-to-scan subheadings.
So, what’s the big deal?
There is nothing inherently wrong with scanning content. I do it all the time.
Your goal is to engage readers and keep them on your site as long as possible.
One of the easiest ways to do this is use subtle visual cues to stop readers while they are in scan mode.
Krug recommends using a billboard style design within your content – use language, layout, media and color contrasts to draw the eye, capture attention and stop the reader.
In other words:
Don’t try and be like Wikipedia, unless you are Wikipedia.
Instead, follow the example of large publication sites like Gizmodo:
And other successful sites in your niche:
My friends Gael and Mark from Authority Hacker use a range of visual formatting elements to capture and keep the attention of their readers, including images, banded call outs, checklists and action boxes.
Here are a few subtle visual cues you can use in your articles:
You’ve seen them throughout this post:
And here’s an example from Backlinko:
Quote boxes use color contrast and the credibility of influencers to stop people as they read down the page.
The folks over at Ahrefs have some pretty compelling data to back their product:
And while big bold text is effective, there are other ways to highlight compelling data points:
See what I did there?
Rather than just skim over the text, a reader might stop and wait to see where the counter ends.
Watching the number grow is a powerful way to quantify value.
Action Boxes and Bonuses
Most readers love content that is actionable.
Action boxes imply value. Readers can quickly find the meat inside the post.
You can also increase the perceived value of content by adding bonuses at the end of each section, like I did in this Ahrefs review:
Use media to break up key sections in your content. This technique is particularly effective if you have long form content or list posts like this one:
And this roundup of the best SEO audit tools:
It does require a little extra leg work, but the end result is a much more professional, cleaner looking piece of content that will stop the readers eye multiple times as they scan down the page.
Note: I use Snappa to quickly create professional images for my blog content and ad creative.
You don’t always need to create custom images or interview an expert to break up text. You can leverage existing content, but just present it in a different way.
Smashing Magazine uses “pull quotes” to stop skimmers:
Don’t get pull quotes confused with block quotes.
Pull quotes are short excerpts from the presented text. They are used to pull a text passage out of the reader’s flow and give it a more dominant position in the post or the article.
A simple way to break up text and draw the eye of your readers.
You don’t need to invest a lot of time building fancy visuals or sourcing quotes from industry experts. Read through your post and see if there is a piece of content that deserves to be highlighted more prominently. Feature it in a pull quote and catch the eye of your readers.
SEO Copywriting Technique #15: Make it Easy for Readers to Find Exactly What They are Looking for (FAST)
Think about how you use the web – you search for specific information, and if you don’t find it (easily) you click away from the page.
Make it dead simple for your readers to find exactly what they’re looking for.
The easiest way to do this:
Descriptive jump links:
Here’s an example from my 10,000+ word link building guide:
It’s like a traditional table of contents that allows your readers to quickly navigate to a section of high-interest. This strategy feeds into readers scanning behaviors (mentioned above). Use it to your advantage, not against it.
For example, I used one in this list building post to make it easy for readers to find specific list building tactics they were most interested in learning:
Rather than scroll through thousands of words trying to see if there is something of interest in the post, I make it easily for readers to find what they are looking for in seconds.
But, here’s the real kicker:
You need to get creative with your jump link text.
Build excitement or curiosity to compel people to find out more. Check out #23 above (“The Great Pixel Land Rush”), it creates a sense of curiosity.
How about #4 below (“How to 4x your email subscribers in under 5 minutes”)? Yes please!
Not only do these jump links improve the on-site user experience, they can also improve SERP click-through rates.
The jump links will often get pulled into the search results:
This wins you more SERP real estate, and helps you stand out from the rest of the search results.
Ready to Level-Up Your SEO Copywriting?
There you have it – 15 actionable SEO copywriting techniques to help boost traffic and conversions.
Now it’s over to you.
Step 1: Tweet this article.
Step 2: Leave a comment telling me which technique you’re going to implement.
Step 3: Go and implement the technique right now.
Note: if you found this SEO copywriting guide useful, and are looking to level up in other areas of SEO, you should check out my SEO training program here.