SEO writing is highly formulaic. This means there are numerous variables to consider, frameworks to choose from, and steps you can take to boost your chance of conversions. But remembering all those variables and formulas can feel overwhelming—especially if you have multiple clients with separate industries and goals.
So instead of giving you an “Ultimate Guide to SEO Writing,” I thought it best to outline some cardinal sins to avoid when writing a blog, landing page, newsletter, or any other piece of online content. We’ll start with convoluted sentence structures.
3 Cardinal Sins of SEO Writing
1. Lengthy, Comma-Heavy Sentences
You can likely guess the reasoning for this one. As kids, we were taught the bane of run-on sentences. They’re simply filled with too much information for readers to process in one go.
And even with commas separating your thoughts, a sentence with more than two or three of them will force the reader to work that much harder.
As copywriters, it’s our job to make the reading process sharp and easy. Clear and concise. Readers only scan through 20-28% of our words, which attaches heavier importance to each sentence we write.
Still, longer sentences have their role. It’s just bad practice not to relieve your reader with a break here and there. You need to let them breathe.
Do this by nixing the run-ons and comma-heavy sentences, and replacing them with “chunks” of truly valuable information. According to Moz, this tactic is called chunking.
Chunking entails splicing your content so that the information is both readable and memorable. (I’m doing it myself, in this very article.) When your content is readable, it’s more likely to be memorable—and memorable, resonant content opens the floodgates to conversions.
2. Picking Keywords on a Whim
Whether you’re writing web copy, an email newsletter, a blog, or any other piece of online marketing material, SEO matters. Stellar writing without suitable keywords may establish your credibility, but will it reach your audience? You may think your keyword fits, but is it at risk of reaching the wrong customers?
Here’s an example: A lawnmower company called Lawn Ninja wants to up their online traffic and drive more sales. They hire me to write some product pages and blogs that’ll accomplish just that. Instead of deep-diving into Moz or Wordstream to feel out what Lawn Ninja’s target audience is searching for, I hastily go with phrases like “lawn supplies online” and “wholesale lawn supplies.” These keywords may be related, but they don’t accomplish my goal.
This is because “lawn supplies online” doesn’t speak to Lawn Ninja’s target audience. They won’t reach visitors searching for lawnmowers, and will only confuse readers who are searching for things like fertilizer or astroturf.
Even if a keyword seems fitting, it needs to: A. Reach your target, and B. Fill your target’s needs. Neither are accomplished in this example.
Keywords guide the work of copywriters. Without proper audience targeting, your words will fall on deaf ears. And oftentimes, rushed copywriters will choose a keyword out of the hasty assumption that their audience is searching it.
They go through all the work of outlining and drafting this magnificent piece – only to shoot themselves in the foot out of haste. I’ve been guilty of it myself.
Established brands are able to lean on their already-existing traffic. But what about start-ups, or brands with little online exposure? For these organizations, keyword research is essential to reaching and growing the audiences they can rightfully serve.
3. Forgetting to Optimize Links
Blogs and long-form articles need links. From links to past articles to third-party sources, there should be a fair amount of blue underlined text in each of your pieces.
Linking to older blogs can distribute traffic across your portfolio of articles. Additionally, linking popular blogs to lesser-performing ones can serve to transfer traffic. Just remember to do it with a touch of relevance. When topics bleed into each other, it’s time to link.
If a family law article about co-parenting mentions parenting agreements, for example, and I’ve written a blog on that sub-topic, a link is due.
Using external links, or links from third-party sources, are another authority-building tactic that shouldn’t be brushed over. This is an absolute must for any article with information that isn’t from your own brain.
Copywriters and marketing teams aren’t experts in every one of their clients’ industries. SEO writing is typically research or interview-based, so external links are necessary to credit our sources and sidestep that god-awful label of “plagiarist.”
One last thing to remember about links: make sure they open in a new tab. If you don’t, then you’re just giving away traffic. Don’t be a traffic charity.
Go into your link settings to make sure of this. It’s easy on WordPress. Hover over each link, click, select the Gear icon, and check the box labeled “Open in a New Tab.”
Remember: every sentence counts. Avoid these cardinal sins of SEO writing to get the most out of your copy. Nix the comma-heavy run ons, do your keyword research, and get your links in order – your conversion rate will thank you.
73% of Readers Prefer Shorter Copy
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