What is SEO Copywriting? (For Beginners)

Maybe you’re thinking of becoming a freelance copywriter and you’re wondering what sort of work you’ll be doing. In your research, you keep coming across terms like SEO and you’ve begun to wonder what is SEO copywriting anyway?

Here’s a primer along with resources to kickstart your training. (Not in the mood to read? Watch my video below.)

What is SEO copywriting?

To understand what SEO copywriting is, we need to define some terms. Let’s start with copywriting. At its simplest, copywriting is writing that sells a product, service, or cause. You will encounter different definitions—and even criticism of mine. But mine works, and here’s why: The digital landscape has blurred the lines between different types of writing. In today’s digital marketing landscape, people use the terms copywriting, marketing writing, content marketing, and content writing interchangeably. And I don’t think they’re wrong in doing so. Content drives all business. It’s a 400 billion-dollar industry. And the goal of all content, ultimately, is to get people to buy (or donate or vote).

So that’s copywriting. Now, let’s talk about SEO.

SEO stands for search engine optimization.

Hearing what it stands for probably doesn’t help much, does it? What the heck does search engine optimization even mean?

Have you ever done a search in Google and wondered HOW Google decides which sites to serve up in its organic listings—especially on the first page? Well, Google uses a complex algorithm to determine what to serve up. (And only Google knows every element of the algorithm. It’s kind of like Colonel Sanders’ recipe for KFC.)

Basically, Google’s algorithm involves many, many moving parts—and it evolves over time. For example, twenty years ago, the algorithm didn’t even consider mobile devices because smartphones hadn’t been widely adopted yet (the first iPhone came out in 2007). Today, mobile-friendliness is an important “signal” in Google’s algorithm.

Why does Google care so much?

Google’s primary goal is to satisfy the user’s search query. (That way, you’ll continue using its products and clicking on its ads.) Whether you’re looking for “sandwich shops near me” or “senior living marketing services” or “how to clean corroded batteries,” Google’s primary goal is to give you the answers you’re looking for.

Its lightning-fast algorithm determines what to serve up in its results. Many factors go into this, such as the quality of the content itself, the number of authoritative backlinks pointing TO the content, how the keyword phrase that the user plugged into Google is used in the content, even how fast the site loads. (Note: That is an incredibly SMALL sampling of what goes into the algorithm, but you get the idea. To dig deeper, check out this article from SEMRush on how the Google search algorithm works.)

When it’s searching through the thousands and thousands of potential sites it can serve up, the algo eventually lands on the top contenders and thinks, “This web page does the best job of answering the user’s search query, so let’s serve that up first on the list of organic search results.”

Make sense?

Let’s demonstrate with an example . . .

Let’s say you’re the director of sales and marketing for a fictional community called The Elmwood Senior Living. And you need help with marketing. You google “senior living marketing services” and some paid ads show up at the top of the results, but also some organic listings.

You see one that catches your eye—the one for Senior Living SMART. You visit the site and love the vibe, the owners’ experience, the knowledge they share on their blog, and the impressive list of other senior living communities it works with. You decide to request a complimentary 30-minute brainstorming session.

Google results on the search for "senior living marketing services"

THAT right there is an example of search engine optimization at work. (And yes, that’s one of my clients. I optimized a page on the site for the phrase “senior living marketing services” – keep on reading to understand WHY I did this.)

Can people who create online content position the content so that it has a chance of being “chosen” by the Google algorithm?

YES! That’s where search engine optimization and SEO copywriting come into play. You can finesse—or optimize—your online content so that it has a better chance of being served up (or, as we say, ranking well) in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

In fact, search engine optimization is its own field. People have titles like “SEO specialist” or “SEO consultant.” These folks know the ins and outs of ALL aspects of search.

But at the end of the day, one of the most important pieces in the SEO puzzle is the content itself. And good news, copywriting newbies: The main goal in SEO copywriting is to simply write awesome content. Meaning content that’s helpful, engaging, and error-free. Which, I’m thinking, is one of the main reasons you’re drawn to this field—because you WANT to write great content.

And yes—SEO copywriting is a bit more involved than simply writing awesome content. But honestly, if you’ve got THAT part down, the rest is straightforward. Sure, you need to know the target keyword phrase you’re writing about. Tools exist that can tell us what keyword phrases real people are searching on for every topic under the sun. (I use SEMRush, which is a paid service. But there are some good freebie keyword tools out there.) So if you have a client who operates a senior living marketing agency (like I do), you can do research in the tools to see what phrases people are searching on.

In the example I provided above, the phrase “senior living marketing services” has a search volume of 50, meaning 50 times a month, on average, people are plugging that phrase into search engines. It has a keyword difficulty of 32. The lower the keyword difficulty, the better chance you have of creating content that can rank well for that particular keyword phrase.

keyword research result for senior living marketing services

Note: some phrases (like the term “marketing services”) are incredibly competitive. There are thousands and thousands of searches on that phrase each month, but because there are so many other websites out there using the phrase, it will be next to impossible for you to come in and get a new site, blog, article ranking high for that phrase.

But a phrase like “senior living marketing services” is incredibly specific and doesn’t haven’t nearly as many web pages using that specific phrase (that’s what the “KD” indicates in the image above: keyword difficulty. The lower the number, the better chance that your content can rank for that phrase, if done right). And, sure, there’s much lower search volume for the phrase “senior living marketing services,” but if you write awesome content that can rank well for that phrase and that piece of content regularly brings in a good chunk of those 50 searches a month . . . well, only good things can happen, right? (As in, that anonymous website traffic becomes bona fide leads and even customers.)

OK, so what is SEO copywriting then, exactly?

SEO copywriting involves using keyword phrases and adeptly weaving them into engaging and helpful online content. The content can vary—you might be writing a home page. You might be writing a service page. You might be writing a blog post. You might be writing a landing page. But your job is to take the keyword phrase and produce a piece of engaging, helpful, error-free content that follows SEO best practices.

The number one best SEO copywriting technique? Writing for HUMANS first. Perhaps you write a blog post on Senior Living Marketing Services: How to Choose Ones That’ll Boost Occupancy. See how that incorporates the keyword phrase, but also hints at a great piece of content that can solve the searcher’s problem?

As an SEO copywriter, you will need to . . .

  • Understand your client’s business—particularly their ideal customer. What are the customer’s pain points? What solution does your client provide? How would that ideal customer search in Google to solve the problem they’re experiencing?
  • Do research in keyword tools. As I mentioned above, there are free tools and paid tools, like SEMRush (I use SEMRush). You need to research phrases that real people are searching on related to your client’s business, particularly those “longer-tail” keyword phrases that tend to have lower overall search volume, but less competition.
  • Expertly weave the keyword phrases into the content, but in a way that sounds natural. No keyword stuffing!
  • Follow best practices for formatting. Use the keyword phrase in the title and in sub-headlines, and use bullet points and short paragraphs. (Kinda like what I’m doing here.)
  • Write effective page titles and meta descriptions. Again, you can learn how to do this.
  • Stay current with the latest SEO and SEO copywriting trends.

Basically, any writing that you—as a professional copywriter—do online will involve search engine optimization. So if you’re thinking about pursuing freelance copywriting, take the time to become familiar with SEO.

A great resource to start with: The Ultimate Guide to SEO from HubSpot.

Some great sites to browse (in addition to HubSpot):

Got other questions about SEO copywriting?

Be sure to browse my Ask the Copy Bitch blog and my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

Is Copywriting Still in Demand?

Have you been thinking about a career in copywriting but maybe you’re wondering “Is copywriting still in demand”? The short answer is: YES. Copywriting is still very much in demand. In fact, as I often say to new copywriters, there’s plenty of work for everyone—and then some.

Check out my video below to get my take. Or continue reading for a deeper explanation.

Is copywriting still in demand? Yes. But we need to discuss definitions to understand why.

Thirty years ago, copywriting had a much narrower definition. But thanks to the Internet, which birthed digital marketing, the word copywriting today is often used interchangeably with phrases like content marketing, marketing writing, content writing, or even freelance writing.

You’ll see discussions on other sites—including respected sites—that copywriting and content writing are two different things. I disagree. Because at the end of the day, both are ultimately trying to sell a product, service, or cause.

Sure, some of the content and/or copy being created is geared towards people at the “top of the sales funnel” when they’re just in the research phase and not ready to buy yet. But the ultimate goal is to nurture that person down the funnel (with great content or copy that engages them) until they become a customer.

And even then—customer retention is a whole other thing that involves more great copy/content. (Think about all the emails Netflix sends you. The content/copy is working to make sure you STAY a customer.)

I think when we try to parse differences between content writers and copywriters, we confuse the heck out of everyone (including the writers). I mean, if WE writers can’t agree on definitions, then how do we expect people who are looking for content help to know what they need?

Because clients DON’T know the differences between all the different types of writing I mentioned above. No, not even the marketing folks. They know they need a writer to write the content for their landing pages, their lead nurturing emails, their PPC ads, their white papers. I’ve never had a client or prospective client question whether I was the right “type” of writer (copywriter vs. content writer).

My point: Don’t get hung up on the terms, be flexible, and be prepared to use them interchangeably.

When I say copywriting, I mean all of the following (and then some):

  • Email copywriting
  • Direct mail copywriting
  • Content marketing
  • Marketing copy
  • Social media copywriting
  • Website copywriting
  • SEO copywriting
  • Scriptwriting (think videos or TV spots)
  • Radio advertising
  • Print advertising
  • Digital advertising

Think of copywriting as the big, generic umbrella term. And all those other terms fall under it.

So, is copywriting still in demand? YES. Why am I so sure? Read on.

I’m living proof. But beyond that, consider this: Content drives all business. Think of all the content you encounter throughout the day—content that’s trying to sell you something. It could be a radio spot, TV commercial, email promotion, website landing page, sponsored ad in your FB or IG feed, etc. Someone needs to write that content. Some organizations have their own writers on staff. Some organizations outsource to freelance copywriters (i.e., marketing writers, content writers). Some do a combo where they have a staff but outsource overflow work. There’s no shortage of copywriting work, either.

In fact, content marketing is a 400 billion-dollar industry. HubSpot reports that 70 percent of businesses actively invest in content marketing

Bottom line: Copywriting is still in demand.

And I don’t see it slowing down any time too soon. Yes, LOTs of advancements have been made with AI (artificial intelligence). And perhaps someday, machines will be able to produce copy with the same finesse as a good marketing writer. But I don’t see that happening tomorrow—or even the next decade. (Famous last words, right?)

Seriously, copywriting (content marketing, content writing, marketing writing) is a great field. Check out my blog post that answers “Is Copywriting for Me?” to learn more.

Got other questions about copywriting?

Be sure to browse my Ask the Copy Bitch blog and my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

Is Copywriting for Me? 7 Signs Indicating YES

Have you been asking the question, “Is copywriting for me?” Cue “I Saw the Sign” by Ace of Base and see how many signs below resonate with you!

Prefer watching to reading? No prob. Here’s the video version of this post from my Ask The Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

1. You love to write.

You were that kid in high school and college who loved getting assigned research papers instead of exams. You love writing emails—and maybe folks have even complimented you on your clear, compelling copy. You love writing holiday cards. Heck, you even love writing grocery lists.

Here’s the thing: As a freelance copywriter, you’ll likely be writing 90 percent of the time. So you need to enjoy it. Why choose a line of work that feels like torture? That’s what the job you had selling pots and pans the summer before junior year of college was for. (True story!)

2. You write well.

It’s not enough that you love to write. You need to write well, meaning your grammar and punctuation are perfect—or pretty darn close. Feeling a little rusty on the mechanics? Good news, sports fans: You can learn (or re-learn) the mechanics. Take the time to refresh before officially launching your business or claiming you’re an expert.

3. You write quickly.

You can’t wait for the muse to strike. You need to write on demand when the client comes calling. And you often need to juggle vastly different topics. Not to mention, you’ll be writing different types of copy—from blog posts to white papers, social media posts to PPC ads. You need to get the job done, delivering error-free copy whenever the client asks.

4. You’re deadline-oriented.

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. You know deadlines aren’t suggestions, but rather rigid rules for when something is due. You appreciate that other people—the client, a colleague—are often waiting on you so they can do the next step. You thrive on deadlines—and you never miss. You don’t fall into the trap of allowing perfection to be the enemy of good enough.

Listen, copywriters are a dime a dozen. Competent copywriters are rarer. Competent copywriters who make deadlines are rarer still. Competent copywriters who make deadlines and who have a sparkling personality and sidekick sloth, well . . .

Picture of Robyn (copywriter) and Stewie (a plush sloth) wondering "Is copywriting for me?"

5. You understand what marketing copy is—and you’re willing to continue learning.

No one is born knowing what “inbound marketing” means or how to write an optimized headline or how many characters you should shoot for in an email subject line. I hardly knew any of this stuff in 2002. So what did I do? I read. I studied. And I still read. I still study.

Three excellent places you should definitely check out:

  • HubSpot Academy: HubSpot offers FREE certifications in relevant areas, including inbound marketing and content marketing. I absolutely recommend taking the courses. (Then, you can add the completion badge to your website and your LinkedIn page).
  • Copyblogger: Copyblogger has plenty of ungated articles, but also a budget-friendly Academy.
  • Marketing Profs: If you really want to get into the nuts and bolts of marketing, this is a great place to start.

6. You have supportive folks in your life who believe in you and see the potential.

You need supportive folks in your life (or an incredible ability to ignore criticism and compartmentalize when people question what you’re doing) to start any sort of business, but especially one where you work out of your spare bedroom in your jammies.

7. You get really jazzed by what copywriting is. And what is copywriting, anyway?

Copywriting—at its most basic—is any writing that helps promote/sell a product, service, or cause. So if you love the idea of seeing your words in action—and helping businesses and organizations along the way—then, yeah: This is a good sign copywriting might be a good career for you (whether you decide to freelance or work for a company as an in-house writer).

OK, you just KNEW I couldn’t mention Ace of Base without inserting the song, right?

I used to work in radio a lifetime ago and played this song on the regs. COLD ENDING, BITCHES! (And they’re still together. Who knew?)

Got more questions like “Is Copywriting for me?”

Maybe questions about how to start a copywriting business, how to charge for copywriting, and the like? Check out my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel or read other articles on my Ask the Copy Bitch blog.

Customer Service Tips: Do You Treat Different Customers Differently?

Seth Godin brought up this thought-provoking question in a blog post. My answer? Yes, I treat different customers differently. I treat all customers with respect and in a professional manner. But the customers who take responsibility for their marketing and who are willing to be a partner with me in the process — those are the ones who get top priority.

By the way, those customers are not always the ones who spend the most money with me either. When it comes to working with people, I’m like a blood hound. I NEED to see the customer succeed — it’s more than just a want. In order for that to happen, though, the customer needs to be a part of the process, at least for the type of work I do. This is why those customers get top priority.

How ’bout you? Do you treat different customers differently?

Business Anniversary Ideas: Mark Those Milestones

It always amazes me when companies overlook the simple things, like their own birthdays. Marking major milestones, like 10 years in business, is a great way to engage customers, reinforce credibility, and garner press. Here are five business anniversary ideas to weave into your marketing plan.

1. Note it on your website. I’m not talking words, but rather some sort of a visual that appears on every page. (Yes, you’ll want to note it in words as well.) Adding a banner graphic that notes the anniversary and having it link to a retrospective blog post is a good strategy. (Bonus: add the banner to social sites, like FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn.)

2. Create a promotion around the number. For example, if you’re celebrating 10 years in business and you’re an acupuncturist, have a contest where you’ll give one lucky winner 10 FREE treatments. You can get a lot of mileage out of a contest like this, since you can promote it through your website, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, email signatures, etc. To enter, people can fill out a form and write a brief statement (250 words or less) as to why they should be the winner and what they’d use the treatments for.

3. Expand your “About Us” section on your website. Add  “Through the Years” or a “Time Line” (or both) on your site where you visually walk people through some of your major milestones.

4. Throw a party. Seems obvious, right? Company anniversary celebration activities are a great way to let your business be REAL. Throwing a party mid-year (late June is a good time) is always a great way to thank people for their involvement in your success. I’m talking employees, customers, and vendors alike. Here in Massachusetts, a cool, fun place to hold a corporate event in Kimball Farm (great ice cream!) in Westford, Mass. Michael Katz of Blue Penguin has been holding anniversary events there for many years.

5. Give gifts. Identify your top tier clients and send them a gift that signifies your business milestone. For example, if you’re celebrating 20 years in business, consider sending an arrangement of day lilies to your top clients with a heartfelt thank you note (the day lily is the flower associated with 20th anniversaries).

Have some other ideas? I’d love to hear them. Leave ’em in the comments.

The Difference Between “Hone” & to “Home in on Something”

Question: I think you made a mistake in my copy because you used the word “home,” and I think it should be “hone”: She knew exactly what area of the artwork to home in on.

Answer: The Copy Bitch is not above admitting to mistakes, but this isn’t one. The word hone is often misused in print and electronic media. When you “hone” your skills, you improve them. When you “home in on something,” you aim your attention to a direct target (think of a homing device). In this example, “she” knew what area of the artwork to direct her attention to. (And, yeah, it’s okay to end sentences with prepositions, too.)