Writing in notebook

8 Stellar Tips on Writing for SEO

We here at 4B have discovered the cheat code to winning some real ROI and it is this:

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, BE, A, GREAT SEO CONTENT WRITER!

cheat-code

When it comes to any content on your site, we can’t stress it enough: writing for SEO is crucial for success! Whether someone is looking for a new cafe, or craft brewery, or culturally appropriated taco truck, they will almost ALWAYS start with a Google search.

As we mentioned earlier in our blog on what SEO is, you MUST create for users and not just search engines.

This is actually a pretty big challenge for most companies, which is why we have come up with a list of tips that will help you improve your content!

Now, before we go any further, we understand that there are two types of people who are reading this blog right now:


  1. Someone who is looking for tips on becoming a successful copywriter
  2. Someone who is far too busy running their business to develop new content, but is wise enough to know that they will benefit IMMENSELY from great SEO copywriting…in which case, let me refer you to our copywriting services page.

For those of you looking to become copywriting gurus, are you ready to start creating impeccable SEO content that will lead to conversions? Of COURSE you are, otherwise, you wouldn’t have clicked on my tempting headline!

Tips For Writing For SEO

SEO Is ALL About The Audience:

Create content for users, not just search engines! Write with the user’s intent in mind!

Sure, this seems like a given, but so many businesses continually fail to write to humans or to humans who are outside their organization…you know, those people that you WANT to be your next client or customer! Answer the questions they’re asking and connect with your audience.

Remember that if you are writing to please an AI or algorithm, you will be missing the end for the means, because the end should be a human reading and finding value in your writing.

Likewise, there’s going to be limited value in talking about product or service features. We get it – you want your blog to be a sales tool – but there are reasons salespeople have a smile on their faces, take you out to lunch at a nice restaurant, and defer conversations about the nuts and bolts. They want you to enjoy yourself and find value in their presence first and foremost. Make sure your writing is doing the same.

Make Headlines That Pop:

Your headline is the initial call to action and it is designed to capture your audience’s attention. It is what entices people to click, and no doubt, the very headline of this blog was optimized to your queries. (Yes, research is a part of this. More about this in a moment.)

Headlines with power words and numbers tend to get more shares on social media, and headlines that answer the “who, what, why, how, and when” to user questions will always benefit immensely.

Super business advertising tycoon David Ogilvy once said, “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.” Something to keep in mind when coming up with that title!
If you are struggling with that headline, check out this blog title generator from Inbound now.

Use Keyword-Rich Phrases:

All successful SEO content writing starts with one thing…keyword research. This is how you will determine the most relevant topics and keywords for your business.

Once you have determined your relevant, targeted keywords, start peppering them into your copy as well as your titles, meta descriptions, and headings (always have an H1!)

Whatever you do, DO NOT stuff keywords (don’t cram a ton of keywords in an attempt to manipulate site rankings in Google search)! Search engines could penalize you, even by removing your site from search engine results pages altogether. PLUS keyword stuffing can create an unpleasant experience for your audience as a whole.

Some tools to help you with keyword research:

Ensure Your Page Readability:

Nobody wants to trudge through difficult, thick, incoherent, and unreadable content. They want answers to their questions and they want them now!

Write in a conversational tone and use shorter phrases, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs. Format your content for readers that want to skim as this allows the mind to breathe!

Sure, we’re not all elbow-patch-tweed-blazer wearing professors of English who have mastered spelling and grammar, which is why some tools like Grammarly come in extra handy when it comes to polishing up content readability.

Structure Your Content:

Going hand-in-hand with readability is the structure of your content.

The back-end organization of your page is important for search engines as it lets them understand and determine the relevancy of your content to a specific user search query.

Make sure that you are using headers (H1s for titles and H2s for subtitles), title tags (the title of your page as it appears on SERPs), and meta descriptions (the HTML that summarizes your content for users and search engines.)

Visual Appeal/Images:

Did you know that images are processed by the brain 60,000x faster than the written word? People are visual creatures, and most of us process things based on what we see. Your reader will absolutely LOVE images that pop.

A good tip would be to include 1 image with every 100 words. This will help improve readability and break the monotony of the text.

Be sure to optimize your images’ alt-text as Google places a relatively high value on them! Include your keyword in at least one image, but ultimately describe the image in specific detail.

Shoot For A Featured Snippet:

Featured snippets are those tidbits of information that you sometimes see at the very VERY top of a Google search. They will appear when a user asks a question such as, “how do I write content for SEO?”

To land a featured snippet, make sure your content thoroughly answer questions in your content. Include numbered and bulleted lists if it is appropriate.

Utilizing all the tips listed above (keywords, images, structure, readability etc.) will always increase your chances of landing the coveted position zero on Google.

Track Your Keywords:

Now that you have unlocked the Contra cheat modes to writing for SEO you should be well on your way to creating killer content! However, there is one vital tip left that you need to consider:

How will you know if you’ve SUCCESSFULLY written for SEO if you’re not setting your targets and tracking your ability to hit them?! Are you planning on checking Google every week to see if you find yourself in the number 1 position?

Keyword tracking is how you will monitor and measure the success of all your hard work and SEO content writing efforts. Doing this will show you how well your website is ranking in Google search results.
You can check the search rankings for all of your keywords with the Swiss army knife of SEO tools, SEMrush.

Not only can you track your keywords using SEMrush, but you can also do keyword research, competitive research, blog audits, and find backlinking opportunities as well. SOLID!

There you have it! You should be all set! Happy SEO content writing, everyone!


Man at computer

What is SEO?: A Philosophical Take

By now we are all aware of the basic principles of SEO, and a good deal of us understand that search is a critical channel in some way for every business. But, if you had to explain what goes into SEO, do you think you could do it? If you could do it, do you think an SEO professional would agree with your description? Ultimately, the more you know about SEO, the better your marketing becomes because you’re able to direct content creation with stronger purpose and get all of your teams speaking the same language (literally and spiritually.) So, what is search engine optimization, really?

Is SEO all about keywords? Is SEO just about having a pretty website? Can I just pepper in some meta descriptions, headers, title tags, schema, and my site will suddenly skyrocket to the first page?

Well, no, maybe not, but it can definitely help. However, SEO is not an exact science and no amount of SEO keyword pixie dust is going to be able to get you ranking for a competitive term when your content isn’t relevant to it.

Conversely, if you created a phenomenal piece of content that brought in a colossal amount of traffic, but you still didn’t gain any clients from it, did you really win anything? Did that ranking and traffic happen mostly by accident?

You see, SEO is a complicated, fickle beast and there is a whole bevy of bad information out there on it. There are also a ton of companies that will try and assure you they have the skills nobody else has that will garner instant, overnight results. (Spoiler alert: they don’t. And given enough time, bad practices could get your site de-listed from Google altogether.)

So, what exactly is SEO other than a crapshoot affair? Well…it’s a lot like really good jazz. Complex and inaccessible for some; intriguing and accessible for others.

Now, rather than spending an exorbitant amount of time data dumping about how search engines operate, or what SEO terms you need to get to know, or how Google’s ever-changing algorithms work, it might be best to first focus on one thing that has been constant about SEO…the user’s intent.

Create for users, not for search engines. Google looks to you and me to tell them what should rank. Satisfying users is the new (and old) satisfying the search engine. Google is just DYING to give people all of the best, most comprehensive, unique, useful, data-backed, trusted, and relevant content that it possibly can. It’s not trying to get your company to manipulate its results.

Homer Simpson Thinking

What is SEO?

Well, the textbook definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is that it is the practice and effort of optimizing a website so that it ranks higher in search engine results, with an end goal of generating good quantity and quality organic traffic.

So, there you have it. Everything is as clear as an unmuddied lake now, right? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

SEO is an easy thing to overthink and overcomplicate. Let’s try to avoid that here.

How Does SEO Work?

Google (and probably Bing and DuckDuckGo) only cares about one thing: Getting the right answer to the query, right away. Our philosophy at 4B when it comes to search is to always provide the best answer to the terms we want our clients to rank for.

Using their complex, secret, and heavily guarded formula, Google reviews and re-reviews the web at a massive scale, then it attempts to categorize pages and sites as answers to questions people may be asking. It attempts to prioritize the most relevant content for a user’s search from what is easily the largest and most up to date index in the world.

Sure, Google’s algorithm can at times seem more enigmatic than KFC’s recipe for their herbs and spices, but what we do know is that Google will rank websites and web pages based on their relevance, authority, and usefulness.

How does one create a webpage that aligns with a user’s search intent? By utilizing the vast array of SEO tools and research, of course!

Sure, the benefits of on-page SEO, such as targeted keywords, title tags, header tags (H1, H2, H3s etc.) image tags, internal linking, schema, rich snippets, and accelerated mobile pages can help your site immensely when it comes to crawlability. But what good is any of this if you aren’t answering the questions people are asking?

If a page is well SEO’d but a user never looks for it, does the page even exist?

When it comes to the best practices of on-page SEO, content is king! Creating high-quality content that’s optimized around specific key ideas is fundamental to good SEO.

It’s good practice to choose key queries (searches) you want to rank for on Google, but also make sure that you are doing the research to ensure that you are answering questions about your product or service that are actually being asked. Search your competition to see what high volume terms they are ranking for and make sure you’re attempting to get a share of voice in those searches, too (SEMrush* is a great tool for seeing what your competition is doing), and make sure your content covers the topic in full and that you are covering ALL the things users might be searching for around the subject of any given page. Never stop working on content and remember QUALITY is better than quantity. 1,500 boring and irrelevant words don’t have the power of 300 words that are helpful to the visitor.

Final Note

John Coltrane Thinking With Saxophone

Great SEO’s are artists and I say that with no shame. We here at 4B aspire to be the John Coltranes of SEO, because as I mentioned earlier, SEO is like jazz. It can be complex, nuanced, and daunting to the point where people feel it is over the audience’s head. It can be mathematical and labored with technique and skill. But it can also be an improvised, artistic thing of beauty, brimming with masterful flourishes where the rhythm could (and it usually does) change at the drop of a hat. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, in order for it to work, it has to be pleasurable and speak to people. And, like jazz, not all SEO is good.

*-We love and use SEMRush. It’s an authentic endorsement by 4B of their product. We also want to be transparent that the link to their site is an affiliate link.


Price tag

What Does SEO Cost?

Before I answer what SEO costs, I think it’s important to talk about what the wrong price to pay for SEO is. I recently met with a small business owner who had been paying $275/month for 3 years. His site was a mess, his domain name had little to do with his brand or his services. Google has 9 pages indexed for his site. He’s not receiving monthly updates from his SEO provider and when I inquired as to what keywords he’s ranking well for, he wasn’t sure. On top of this, while the site had some minor optimizations, it left a lot to be desired from an SEO of even intermediate skills. This man had spent close to $10k on search engine optimization services and he was, apparently, getting little to nothing for it.

These bad actors ask for minimal investment and deliver next to nothing in return, or worse, they achieve quick and unbelievable results through black hat SEO tactics including low-quality link networks. While this might be initially great news, these tactics can (and likely eventually will) result in Google delisting your website, which will cost you quite a bit more money to recover from. Let’s call these people what they truly are: Spammers and scammers. They reach out to a business owner and suggest a price that undercuts the market while promising the world. What happens when the SEO service doesn’t deliver? Almost nothing. If the small business owner recognizes how little is being done on their behalf, the cost has been so minimal that it’s not worth it for that business owner to hold anyone accountable.

The true end result of hiring a cheap search engine optimization servicer is that the business owner has just lost time, budget, and faith in digital services. The only party this is good for is the cheap SEO, who has already moved on to his next mark.

SEO can be too cheap. Anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your success and offers you inexpensive SEO is likely not worthy of your trust or your budget.

Now that you know what you shouldn’t pay for search engine optimization services on your website, let’s get to the reason you arrived at this article in the first place:

How much does SEO cost per month?

According to a 2018 article on ahrefs.com:

 

  • The majority of SEOs charge between $75 – $150 per hour.
  • Monthly retainers will generally run you between $500 – $1,000/month in the US.
  • The more experienced an SEO, the more they’ll charge.

Let’s follow up those hard numbers by answering a question a prospect recently asked me:

How does an SEO agency justify their monthly cost?

Technical Search Engine Optimization

Technical SEO is all about making sure that your site is visible, in full, to Google and Bing, communicating your site’s pages and relevance to search engines, meets Google’s Best Practice Guidelines for SEO, is visible and functional on all platforms, including (and maybe, most importantly) mobile devices. All of the work in the world won’t be worth much if Google doesn’t know it exists.

Key Query and Competitive Research

You can absolutely achieve with a rudderless SEO campaign, in the same way that a rudderless boat can hit land. It’s mostly out of your control and relies on an abundance of luck. Upfront key query research can help give some guidance around what content should be created, including what questions are being asked that you can and should answer, and where your best competitors are earning search traffic.

As your content matures, Google will start ranking it in search. Your SEO practitioner should be able to inform you for what queries your pages are actually ranking at volume and recommend some adjustments for continued upticks in search visibility. Remember that your website is a living and ever-evolving library of information. A website is always under construction.

Content

I’ve said it before – I will continue to say it: Poorly optimized content that’s great can rank all on its own, while well-optimized content that’s poor may fail to provide results.

The clients that I’ve achieved the best results with are also those clients who are continually creating new written content. This can be content that they write themselves, that they have outsourced to a copywriter or a combination of both. Your investment in SEO should partially go to creating new content and/or adding markups and refinements to new content.

Reporting and Analysis

This is really what you’re paying for – proof of change. I’m still amazed by the number of people paying for search engine optimization services that aren’t having regular check-ins with their agency. Website traffic and analytics reporting, ideally, is where the rubber meets the road and your learning how your rankings are fluctuating, discover trends in your traffic, and review what upcoming work should include to maintain or improve upon your existing rankings, and find new opportunities.

Off-page SEO

Your companies trust with your audience or relevance with search engines isn’t solely built on your website alone. There are a host of websites that can reference your content, provide categorical context for your services, and furnish customer and employee reviews of your company. All of these entities are important to the search experience and should be tended to in part or wholly by your search engine optimization agency.

This includes ensuring that all of your social media profiles include accurate and complete information, that your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are kept up-to-date and include frequent updates, and, if included in scope, that backlinks from highly trusted sites are secured, when possible.

Another consideration to be aware of is that if your search engine optimization agency finds that you have received poor reviews which are breaking trust with potential customers, they should recommend a reputation management program meant to address negative reviews and generate reviews from happy customers.

And if everything is going right, they should come back after a while and ask for a bigger budget.

You probably don’t want to hear it, but justifying an increased budget is the mark of an SEO and/or marketing program that’s going well. Your investment should result in improved results. Your agency should want to build and continue a relationship with you. Eventually, be it a quarter or a year down the road, your SEO company should be able to show you how far your investment has taken you so far and where additional budget should allow you to go in the future.

Whether your hire 4B or not, you deserve to get the best search engine optimization for your business. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you invest the 12 minutes required to watch this video from Google on how to hire a good SEO service and avoid a bad SEO service. If you’re ready to get started improving your velocity of search traffic, get in touch.


Online sales

How can I tell which keywords are driving my sales?

Very recently, I showed you how to find which keywords were driving traffic to your site from search. While this can prove very important to understand where your site is providing value for searchers, it also assumes that all traffic is created equal. It’s not all equal.

Your site isn’t some amorphous blob (I hope) that somehow ranks as a whole? It’s made up of pages that are ranking individually for a myriad of keywords and key phrases. It does a disservice to your efforts to view your site’s top keywords and end your research there. Let’s go further.

While I speak to these examples in terms of completed and submitted contact forms, you can modify this to your own goal. If you’re a B2B company, you may want to use this information to find what keywords are driving leads. If you are a restaurant, you may want to learn what keywords are driving reservations. If you know the goal of your website, following these steps should help reveal what people are typing into search engines to get there.

Step 1: Make sure you have Google Analytics setup on your site.

This is essential for revealing this data. If you don’t have Google Analytics firing on every page of your site, go get that setup and then ask Siri to remind you to revisit this page in two months.

You can find instructions for setting up Google Analytics here.

Step 2: Get as close to the conversion as you can.

What prompted me to write this piece was a company asking how I’d know where to start their PPC campaigns from. I tried to explain this multi-post series in a span of about 2 minutes. The client looked perplexed as to the words I’d just vomited out. I decided to take this step by step to help them (and you) better understand what was driving their conversions.

In their case, they wanted leads in the form of completed contacts, either by phone or from a contact email form on their site. For the sake of making this example easier to follow, we’ll focus on the contact email form. With that goal in mind, I’m considering any visitor who sees the “Thank you for contacting us” page after they hit submit on the contact form a conversion. Let’s pretend that the URL of that page is www.example.com/contact-thank-you/

I have another client who doesn’t sell directly to their customer. Instead, they provide links to local retailers, in their case, visits to the “Find a retailer” page or a button click to “Find a retailer near me” might be considered a conversion, since it’s the closest to a conversion we can get with website interactions (we can’t track the visitor once they leave the site.)

Step 3: Source the entrance page of your convertors

Now that we know the conversion URL (which, as an aside, should be set up as a Goal in Google Analytics), we want to visit Google Analytics, select Behavior on the left-hand menu, select Site Content, and then click All Pages to see visits to all page on the main portion of the page.

Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages

On the right hand side, below the graph of pageviews, you’ll see a search bar. Type in the page name of your conversion page. Using our example, I’ll type in “contact-thank-you”

 

If everything has gone correctly, you should now only see that page in your list of pages.

Below the graph, you should see a drop-down menu labeled Secondary Dimension. Click that drop down menu and type Landing Page in the search box.

Select Landing Page, and you should now see a new column below, just to the right of Page column. This new column shows you the entrance pages of visitors who ultimately landed on the URL in the Page column.

In case that wasn’t clear (it happens): The URL under the Page column is your goal page. The URL under the Landing Page column is the page they entered your site on that ultimately led those visitors to your goal page.

There’s a lot you can do with this information, including optimizing your page for key phrases that drive even more converting traffic. You could even set up a really well researched PPC campaign, couldn’t you?

Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this article and be sure to let us know if it helped you. We’d love to hear from you.

Memorize or write down the URL(s) of that page or pages that are driving the bulk of your traffic!

Step 4: Find the keywords that are driving your converting traffic

I hope by this point, you’re excited. I’ve done this a lot in my career and I still think having this kind of information is so cool and it energizes me to write about it. We know there’s a treasure, we’ve found the X on the ground, now it’s time to start digging!

Remember how I showed you how to find the keywords that were driving traffic to your site? Now we’re going to find the keywords that drive search traffic to the page that drive conversions on your site.

Go to Google Search Console and login.

Once you’re logged in, click Performance from the left-hand menu.

 

Once you’ve clicked Performance, click Pages on the right-hand pane below the graph.

 

With pages selected and a list of your most popular pages in search by volume of clicks in front of you, scroll down until you see the URL of the landing page of your converters that we found in the previous step. When that landing page URL is located, click on it. This will filter your view to only focus on that single page.

Now that that URL is isolated, click back onto Queries below the graph.

 

Voila! These are the main terms that are driving converting traffic to your site in search.

There’s a lot you can do with this information, including optimizing your page for key phrases that drive even more converting traffic. You could even set up a really well researched PPC campaign, couldn’t you?

Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this article and be sure to let us know if it helped you. We’d love to hear from you.


Traffic

How can I tell which keywords are bringing traffic to my site?

Search engine optimization is a weird beast to most business owners. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room with a successful proprietor who wants to rank #1 for a term no one is searching. “Get me to the top page for ‘poly-fabric textile distributor Wisconsin!'”

What drives that thinking? I’d assume it’s because that’s how the owner talks about the products she sells. I’d also assume that the fine people at Kellogg’s refer to ‘dehydrated and compressed corn cereal’ internally, but receive far higher traffic to their site for the term ‘corn flakes’. The industry jargon may or may not be how your best customers talk about your business, but how do you know? A better question might be:

How can I find out which keywords bring traffic to my site?

        1. Make sure you’ve claimed Google Search Console for your site. (This might seem daunting initially, but the payoff of information that exists inside of this tool is invaluable.)
          • If you’ve just claimed your search console, you may need to wait a couple of days. If you’ve had it claimed for a while, you should be seeing a performance overview.
        2. On the left hand side, click the word “Performance” in the menu.
Google Search Console Menu > Peformance

This page is so cool, isn’t it? For the reporting period, it shows you how many clicks you’ve received in Google, how many search impressions you’ve received, your click-through rate (how many impressions resulted in a click), and your average position (which page of Google you show up on, on average)

 

  • If you scroll down, you’ll see queries that Google has been ranking your site for. If you click on the word “Clicks”, this page will sort those queries by the terms that have received the most clicks in Google. Better still, search console will also show you the terms that you’re receiving impressions for in search but aren’t winning clicks on.

 

If you’re wondering why all of the clicks that you long for elude you, I’ll tell you why: You just haven’t earned them yet, baby! Start writing some content around those terms.

 

Search Queries in Google, sorted by “Clicks.”

Better EVEN STILL, this is the actual language searchers are using in Google. This is their voice, spoken to Google and whispered back to you verbatim by Google. Mirror the voice of your audience and you’ll have a better opportunity to succeed in search.

Now that you know which keywords are bringing people to your site, you should take the next step to learn which keywords are driving sales or leads on your site.

One note about Google Search Console: This isn’t accounting for every click you receive in Google. As once heard a fellow marketer say, ‘This isn’t an exact science, it’s just the best science we have.’. Go have fun with this tool and let it shape your efforts.

If you need help on this or have questions, please leave them in the comments below.