The world of SEO has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Having worked as a copywriter in the digital marketing industry for the last seven years or so, the premise is easy to understand. Higher rankings in search engines lead to more eyes on a business, which (in theory) results in more conversions and more money in our clients’ pockets.
But, while it’s straightforward enough to see the importance of SEO, the nitty-gritty of keyword research, link building, optimising content and more remained foreign to me.
So, I embarked on HubSpot's SEO Certification course to give me a broader understanding of the basics and provide me with a stronger foundation of knowledge to take forward in my writing.
Here are my key takeaways from the course:
Writing authoritative content
In my role as a copywriter in the digital marketing industry, I’ve become used to implementing some SEO practices such as keywords into my work. While this aspect of SEO is very much second nature and it’s easy to understand why having common search terms in a piece of content would be beneficial, one thing that was really pressed home to me on Hubspot’s course was the authority that needs to be conveyed in content.
The use of the EAT acronym reflects the three key things that a copywriter should keep in mind when writing content:
E - expertise
A - authoritativeness
T - trustworthiness
If all of the content on a website follows this approach, then it’s likely that this content will begin to rank. When a search engine’s bots crawl a website, they’ll be looking for how relevant the content is and also rank it based on its SEO authority. Without relevant content, it doesn’t matter how beautifully written the piece is, it’s not guaranteed to rank even if it’s authoritative, and vice versa.
By exploring topics in an in-depth manner, providing practical advice or information that answers common questions, and writing about trends or topical issues, you will be demonstrating authority throughout the copy and therefore you’re more likely to see it rank highly on Google and other search engines.
The HubSpot course also emphasised the importance of placing the audience at the centre of every piece of copy. Don’t just write content simply to tick SEO boxes; make sure it is relevant to the client’s target audience. Take some time to research what competitors are writing about, or what is ranking well for key terms that you’re looking to target. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to replicate content that is already performing - this just means that you’re doing your research on what is currently ranking well. However, don’t just take what is doing well and recreate it exactly - add a unique twist to your piece that will help it stand out. This could be doing your own research to find out something new, or delving deeper into the topic.
Relevancy and authority go hand in hand, and copywriters play an integral role in ensuring both are featured throughout pieces of content.
How we can help generate backlinks
We all know the saying “quality over quantity”. Well, it turns out that with backlinks, this is not always the case. The more sites and pieces of quality content that link back to your site, the more authoritative you’re going to look to Google. They’re a sign to Google, and other search engines, that a site is a high-quality resource, and so backlinks are one of the most important parts of an SEO strategy. Google mostly cares about how interesting and relevant to them other people find our content, so it’s important to write copy that will make websites want to link to us.
In the past, I knew that backlinks were important, but very much thought of them as a task that fell solely on the SEO marketers at Adtrak. And whilst it remains a key part of what they do, this course taught me that there are a number of ways copywriters can help with this. Helping a piece to rank well in the first instance will mean there is a better chance of the piece earning organic backlinks. Things to help achieve this include:
- Write informative content - content that answers commonly searched questions about the industry or product you’re writing about is more likely to be automatically picked up and ranked highly by Google and other search engines.
- Include H2s - structure content in a way that makes it easy to read. Adding H2s (headings) to break up the piece and avoiding large blocks of text will help make it scannable for readers, and therefore easier to digest.
- Lists - writing lists or pieces of content that include them tend to be popular among readers. And if it’s popular with readers, then it’s popular with search engines, too.
- Make the content credible - a great way to establish authority in your content, and therefore boost the chances of gaining backlinks, is to make the piece credible. Facts and statistics from reputable sources are an easy way to do this.
- Choose broad topics - make a list of broad topics that you want to rank for. This will help to identify key areas that content can be written about and provide you with a content plan to help generate backlinks.
In addition to these tips, it’s also worthwhile to sign up for press releases or news alerts that can provide you with inspiration for content. Research websites that you want to be linked from or write guest blogs for to see what kind of content they publish, and take some time to review the type of content that is currently ranking.
Keeping titles short but sweet
When it comes to writing blog content for our clients, often the internet marketer has already provided the copywriter with an SEO-friendly title, but the HubSpot course provided some great tips for writing titles that proved useful, too.
According to the course, the best titles are the ones that incorporate keywords with a high search volume and that are the most relevant to audiences using search engines to find information or answers to their query. Plus, the shorter the better, as many people tend to search for shorter questions or terms in Google when looking for information. It’s always worthwhile making titles into questions, incorporating ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘why’ etc into the title as these are commonly searched by users.
As well as optimising titles, the course also provided insights into how to optimise blog content in Google’s featured snippets. Having your content ranked in a featured snippet is hugely beneficial as it significantly increases the likelihood that your site will appear on the search engine results page. This is because your content will be in a prominent position on the search engine page, as one of the most relevant answers to the search query.
The course provided helpful information on how to optimise existing blogs to try and make it into the Google featured snippet. The Hubspot course advised the optimisation process for featured snippets is as follows:
- Identify existing blogs that rank in the top five search results on Google
- Analyse the keywords they rank for
- See if the featured snippet appears in the search engine for the keywords you want to target
- If so, optimise the blog with the keywords you’re targeting
- Submit URLs from your live article to be re-crawled by Google
Content in lists tends to perform well in the featured snippet, so this is generally a good content piece to target.
The copywriter’s role in SEO strategy
Overall, this course taught me that the copywriter's role in SEO strategy is far more prominent than maybe first thought.
The course has opened my eyes to things I can help contribute to. This includes generating SEO-friendly ideas/titles, helping to achieve backlinks by ensuring my content is informative and authoritative, and looking at ways to optimise existing content to help it perform better in search engines. While I was always aware that a key purpose of the content I was writing was to boost rankings and SEO, I believe that having embarked on the course has made this a lot clearer and enhanced my understanding of techniques and best practices.