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SEO Recommendations #1: Copywriting Tips

As part of our SEO Recommendations Series this article will break down copywriting tips, and explain the Readability tab in your Yoast SEO window. First, let's begin by discussing how your copy is evaluated. Table…

As part of our SEO Recommendations Series this article will break down copywriting tips, and explain the Readability tab in your Yoast SEO window. First, let’s begin by discussing how your copy is evaluated.

Table of Contents

  • Search Engines are made up of three parts:
  1. Crawler (aka spider)
  2. Index
  3. Algorithm

A Crawler searches the internet for:

  1. Content
  2. Headings 
  3. Links

Crawlers pass over your site periodically and create an html file of your site that it saves in its Index.

How often does a Google crawler check my site?

It depends on two factors:

  1. Frequency of site changes
  2. Google’s previously determined value of your site’s information on a particular subject, and overall determined value

How does a crawler find your site initially? It has to link to an existing indexed site to become a part of the Index database. Due to this, every site we build is linked to by our ARTSOPOLIS.com site, so you don’t have to worry about your initial link.

What method does Google use to turn that information into search engine rankings?

The Algorithm. First, it looks at the information in the index and performs calculations base on that information. Second, it factors in other considerations like site speed, great content and site security. As a result, it decides how relevant the information on your site is to the person performing the search and the page they see in google is the outcome of this calculation.

Relevant Linking in copy (and in general) is critical

Tip #1 Ask your relevant community partners to link your site to content on their website.

Think if linking as a pathways for Google  crawlers to follow. With that in mind you, you may begin to understand why logical/relevant linking is SEO gold. What do we mean by logical? For example, if you are a ballet troupe, and you are linked to an article on cement pouring, that’s not helpful for your SEO ranking. In contrast, if you are linked in a blog or article talking about the top 3 places to see dance in your city, and your organization’s name is linked to your site, that is very beneficial. More linking is not necessarily better, if it isn’t relevant. 

See your organization’s name mentioned in an online article but it’s not linked? Ask the author to change that. Most importantly, be sure to return the favor in the future when the opportunity arises.

Tip #2 Provide useful, clear, pleasant to read information, that matches the needs of the audience.

You should always keep your AUDIENCE in mind when it comes to writing copy. ‘Useful’, ‘Clear’ and ‘Pleasant to Read’ are only recommendations you can use when they are clarified in your mind by who will read it. Google will record user interactions with your copy and will use this information in its calculations accordingly. Ex. Did they read to the end? Click on any links? Buy something?

NOTE: Some people write with search engines in mind, and use short term tricks to get the algorithm to pay attention to their page. THIS IS A MISTAKE. Google gets smarter everyday and penalizes those that try to ‘game the system’.

DO NOT

X Keyword Stuff (use keywords in illogical ways, like using the word too many times, in a piece of copy)

Instead choose to use:

Synonyms ex. Keyword: Actor, Synonym: Thespian
Related key phrases ex. Keyword: Actor, Keyphrase: Theater
Other forms of the keyword ex. Keyword: Actor, Other forms: Acting, Acted, Act

Create Content for Content’s sake. 

Don’t create content if you have nothing to say that is relevant to your audience. Relevancy of the information on your site is how you maintain and gain traffic from real users. This means that creating irrelevant content breaks user trust and ruins your reputation as an authority on a subject.

Is Google actually reading my copy?

Sort of, although it doesn’t understand words in the same way we do. It has a special part of its Index that it uses to evaluate copy called the Related Entities Index Database.

See how those associations are logical to you and me? Google learns ‘related entities’ from us, and therefore gets better at recognizing our actual speech patterns through analyzing the entire internet’s collection of content. It is safe to assume that it uses this formula of ‘context’ to decide how relevant your content is to the search that is being performed. If your copy includes lots of  what Google deems ‘related entities’ to the word or phrase someone is searching for, Google will most likely boost your ranking to help that user find your relevant content as a result.

Why do we say ‘most likely’? Because the way Google’s algorithm actually makes decisions is a secret. However, through analyzing the past behaviors of Google and pairing that with the updates that have happened over the years, SEO experts make assumptions about what’s happening behind the curtain, and predictions about how to best optimize SEO.

With this is mind…

Tip #3 Plan out what you want to say and exhaust the topic.

Write thorough, simple copy while staying true to the core message of what you’re trying to say. Meandering or overly complicated copy works against your SEO evaluation. In short, write in a way that is efficient and valuable to your audience.

Writing for your Audience: Preparing & Writing

Ensuring good SEO results from your copy requires a little more thought than some of us usually put into creating content. So that is why you should spend 40% of your time preparing your content, and editing it, but only 20% of your time writing it. As such, we have some questions for you to answer before you begin writing.

  1. Who will be reading this piece of copy?
    1. Create profiles of your various target audience members.
    2. Pick a specific audience segment to talk to in your writing, and you will find This helps bring clarity to the communication goal of the copy.
  2. What is their search intent? In other words, what question would they be trying to answer if they were looking for your copy?
  3. Do they already know about the subject?
  4. How can you adapt what you are writing to accommodate your audience? (ex. Tone of voice’, use of technical terms with or without explanation, age group etc.)
  5. What gets your audience excited about this subject? If you don’t know, ask them! Surveying what your audience wants to know about is the best way ensure you’re writing relevant content.
  6. Does your audience want a quick answer or a detailed explanation?
  7. Are you trying to convince, inform or entertain your audience? You can do all three, but it is helpful to determine the main purpose of your copy.

Make sure you know who you are writing for and what they want to learn from your copy, BEFORE you begin writing.

Finding Inspiration

In a future article, we will address how to pick keywords and keyphrases, which will help you to balance two questions:

  1. What do I want to write about?
  2. What do I want to rank for?

These will help you decide what will stand out and encourage people to visit your site. 

There are lots of other places to pull inspiration from, however: 

  1.  Real life – events, conferences, peer conversations, lectures
  2. News articles
  3. Personal experiences
  4. Comments on social media posts or blogs

Copy Structure

Due to the fact that site users usually scan copy before they decide to read it fully, there are some structure guidelines to keep in mind for informative or opinion pages or articles:

  1. Employ headings and sub-headings to convince readers the content they are interested in is on your page.
  2. Use ‘core sentences’ which contain the main idea at the beginning of that paragraph.
  3. Overall copy structure:
    1. Introuduction – state topic and estbalish message
    2. Body – Provide evidence or opinions
    3. Conclusion – reiterate message

Sum up the message of your copy in one sentence: You may find this is most easily done by answering one central question. The clarity of your message is particularly important in web copy, so it should be straightforwardly introduced and then revisited in the conclusion of your writing.

Writing for your Audience: Editing with Yoast Guidance

What can I do to improve my Readability score according to my Yoast SEO Plugin?

If you’re curious about how google ‘sees’ your text, and really want to do a deep dive into correcting your copy so Google understands it as clearly as possible, try the Natural Language API. This tool gives an in depth analysis of every element Google is paying attention to in your copy, consequently allowing you to tweak it accordingly.

Not ready to run in depth analysis on every piece of copy you write? We understand, and that is why we are using the Yoast SEO plugin on all of our sites. In short, their analysis results window takes the guesswork out of improving your copy. 

Understanding your Readability Tab Analysis Results

Consecutive Sentences

Avoid starting 3 or more sentences with the same word or phrasing

ex. We are arts advocates. We can no longer ignore the lack of funding that is apparent in our city and it need addressing now. We are working together as an alliance to bring about change.

Instead try using synonyms or switching around the sentence structure:

ex. Our alliance is made up of Arts Advocates. We are working together to bring about change because there is an apparent lack of funding in our city and it needs addressing now.

It’s the same message, but without the repetition of ‘We’.

Transition Words

Show the reader relationships between ideas by using transition words

These words help your reader to understand which of your thoughts are connected. Your writing will become a clear path for your reader to follow, as a result.

ex. Our community center has received a capital improvement grant. As a result, we have created a grand plan to improve the facility.

Yoast won’t give you a green light on your copy until at least of 30% of your sentences contain some form of transition word(s).

Types of Transition Words

Flesch Reading Ease

Write shorter sentences, with words no more than two syllables

This worldwide recognized test is a common formula used to evaluate how difficult a piece of writing is to read. We found this handy chart below on Wikipedia help with understanding the scores of the test. Most importantly, you can find the same formula used and recommendations made by multiple sources, so we’re confident in Yoast’s recommendation of creating content that falls in the 60-70 score range.

Sentence Length

Write sentences that are no more than 20 words long

Good results with this flag goes hand in hand with good results from the Flesch Reading Ease test. Because Long sentences often force readers to double back to grasp the concept of the sentence, it makes sense long sentences are a factor in whether something is easy to read.

Paragraph Length

Write short, concise paragraphs that don't repeat concepts multiple ways

Having too much copy in one block on a page is daunting for your site user and increases the chance that they will ‘bounce’ off the page without engaging with your content.

Subheading Distribution

Use subheadings to separate your copy into groups of ideas

Subheadings make copy easy to scan, and consequently is often how readers find the information they want from your page quickly. The easier your pages are to scan, the more likely a user is to return to your site to find information they think you are the authority on again and again.

Passive Voice

Use 'active voice' sentences whenever possible

Active Voice:

Chloe gave Raja her tap shoes.

Passive Voice:

Raja was given tap shoes by Chloe.

The passive voice makes your writing more ‘wordy’ and your message less clear than it could be. A red flag will display in Yoast analysis window for content containing any more than 10% written in the passive voice.

Tense based examples of passive voice sentences and active voice alternatives

Over the next few weeks ARTSOPOLIS will continue to produce Yoast SEO guidelines, tips and strategy information. We will let you know when the next article is ready!

Have a topic you’re interested in learning about? Send your request to NetworkSupport@artsopolis.com and we will be sure to cover it.