Copywriting for search engines in 2013

iStock_000018186963XSmall (2)Just a few short weeks ago, at the end of May, the content marketing world met Penguin 2.0 – Penguin’s smaller, more direct little brother. Whilst the changes made were more subtle than the original, the rollout of Penguin 2.0 relit a fear in the heart of many brands about the trials and tribulations of writing for search.

Everybody wants to reach that coveted top spot – and indeed, you’ll be rewarded with approximately 48% of the web traffic for your search term if you get there – but some marketers have become so fearful of over optimising that they neglect their SEO efforts completely. Here is our guide to writing for search in 2013:

Keywords still count

Let us start by saying that keyword stuffing is downright wrong, and if your brand is still doing it, you need a new SEO strategy. Keywords, when used in a natural way, can still have a big impact on the positioning of your page – quite simply because they tell Google what your site is all about. Research the search terms that are attracting decent volumes of traffic in your area, and make sure you work these keywords and phrases into your copy, especially your page titles and opening paragraphs. This will help users to find the content that is most relevant to them – which brings us on to our next point …

Speech bubble cloudQuestions are key

A lot of searches are phrased as questions. Just thinks of the terms you type into Google every day – many of them will begin with “what does”, “how to”, “why is” etc, and those are exactly the sorts of phrases that your customers will be using too. In fact, we’ve got the word straight from three ex-Googler mouths that the search giant likes “nice long articles that will solve people’s problems”. Regularly posting articles on your blog with questions as the titles and your expertise as the body content is a great way to get more visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Know your niche

Of course, it’s no good writing answers to questions that aren’t being asked by the people who fit your customer profile, so when you’re copywriting for search, it’s important to carve out a niche: a topic or group of topics that you know plenty about and will attract relevant traffic and high quality back links.

Visuals are vital

Regardless of how helpful you are, a high bounce rate (people leaving your site after visiting just one page) can have a negative effect on your position in the SERPs. The key is to get people to your page and encourage them to stay there and explore further – and this means making your content look good. You can lose visitors before they’ve even read your copy if the formatting is bad. No one is excited at the prospect of a lengthy, dense block of text, so break up your copy with subheadings and bullet points, and include visual content alongside the wording. Don’t just limit yourself to pictures: research shows that properly optimised video can increase your chances of getting on the front page of Google by 53x.Thumbs Up Like Button

Social sharing matters

When you’ve completed your content, the worst thing you can do is post it and subsequently ignore it. Promoting your content is essential when writing for search – Google is starting to take more and more notice of ‘social signals’, meaning that if your content develops enough of a viral buzz, it’s more likely to climb up the SERPs. According to a recent white paper, as much of 10% of content’s ranking capabilities is decided by its levels of social activity. When you’ve written a new piece of content, link out to it from all your social networks and install a sharing bar like the one you can see to the right of this page to encourage your readers to do the same.