This is the third part in Mason’s series on search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and tactics for ranking on results pages and driving traffic to your site.
SEO has evolved far beyond a reliance on simple keywords, but the written content on your site, as well as the language hidden behind the scenes in the code, retain a great deal of influence on search engine algorithms. Here are the factors that make your content easy to digest for search engines so you can rank highly and capture as many clicks as possible.
SEO copywriting is not just about ranking. It’s also about what your content looks like on a search engine results page (SERP).
The meta-description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title. This snippet can go a long way in influencing your target reader to click on the link to your site.
Keywords in your meta-description don’t influence rank, but that doesn’t mean you can safely disregard them. Search engines will automatically generate a snippet that highlights the term that’s been searched for, but you also have the ability to manually craft the copy that appears in this spot for each page on your site, giving you more control over what users see and affording you an additional opportunity (beyond the page title) to tempt them to click through.
The meta-description should be based on the content of the page and include the keyword that you are optimizing the page for. Lead off the copy with your keyword phrase, and succinctly summarize the purpose and content of that page. In doing so, you reassure the searcher that your content will satisfy what they’re looking for.
Try to keep the meta-description under 160 characters so the full description is visible in the search result. Search engines will cut off descriptions that are longer than 160 characters, so at the very least, your key terms should be front-loaded at the beginning of the text.
For SEO purposes, your ideal content will be tightly on-topic and centered on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrase for that specific page.
In general, the following rules should be applied on all pages:
- Focus on one primary keyword topic and phrase per page.
- Aim for a minimum of 300 words per page. More is only better if it’s focused and on topic; “fluff” content will not help you rank.
- Make the page easy to scan. Do that by incorporating lots of white space, headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Highlight key words in bold and/or italics at least once per page. Avoid large “walls of text” by applying plenty of paragraph breaks.
- Feature your most important keywords high on the page (in the first sentence if possible) and occasionally throughout.
- Use keyword synonyms at least once in the visible text on the page.
Keyword Frequency vs. Keyword Density
Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keyword phrase appears on the page – a raw count. Keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page.
The only way to make sense of an appropriate frequency is via the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the content, so density is a metric you should pay attention to. Too low, and your ranking could suffer. Too high, and you trip the threshold into spam territory.
In other words, the only way to tell if your placement of keywords is super or spammy is to measure the frequency against the overall length of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% qualifies as keyword stuffing. To a search engine, this looks like you’re trying to game them.
So for a typical 300-word page, staying within the safe zone of keyword ratios would mean using your keyword phrase fewer than 16 times.
So there you have it – you don’t need to mindlessly repeat keywords to optimize. In fact, if you do, you’ll probably get the opposite result: these days, search engines tend to deprioritize pages that are obviously stuffed with keywords.
As a rule of thumb, use your primary keyword phrase:
- 2-3 times on short pages;
- 4-6 times on longer ones;
- once in the heading;
- in the subheads (however many times it makes sense);
- and once in bullet points, bold and/or italicized text.
Write enough pages and you’ll soon get a sense of what’s too much or too little. But for optimal results, I recommend consulting a Keyword Density tool, like the one found here.
Linking is the fundamental basis of the web. Search engines want to know you’re sufficiently “connected” with other pages and content, so linking out to other pages (your own as well as those published by third parties) matters when it comes to search engine optimization. Understanding linking can help you understand where you fall in the SEO food chain and better understand how targeted you need to be with your keywords.
Follow these best practices for including links in your copy:
- Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy.
- Place a link to a relevant page approximately every 120 words along.
- Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites (not just homepage URLs).
- Apply the hyperlinks to naturally relevant anchor text. This doesn’t just help your SEO, it makes the content of your page easily readable by not interrupting the flow of language with directives like “click here.”
A Note on Meta Keywords
For a while now, Google has not used the keywords meta tag that appears in the header of a page’s HTML.
While it’s not necessary to enter they keyword in this field, I recommend you do it anyway – not for the search engine’s benefit, but for the SEO, Public Relations and Marketing Teams in your office. Having these team members be able to quickly look at the code and know what the keyword the page is being optimized for will help them to ensure inbound links and material are going to the appropriate pages on your site increasing the likelihood of success.
In the next post in this series, I examine how we measure success and why being No. 1 in search results matters to your overall digital strategy.
Questions about copywriting for SEO? Post them in the comment section below or give me a shout @ctrewski on Twitter, or call (203) 563-9943 ext. 121.
As Mason’s Director of Digital Strategies and Analytics, Ryan Winiarski believes the key to any campaign begins with defining measurable goals and setting the tracking efforts directed at attaining those goals. Working in media and marketing communications for more than 10 years, Ryan has a deep understanding of how online and offline marketing programs can be integrated. That knowledge and understanding allows the Mason team to understand and measure the effectiveness of your advertising, public relations and total marketing spend to create high-impact campaigns that create opportunities, results and revenue giving you the most efficient return on your investment.