Complete SEO Content Writing Guide for Effective Website Copy

SEO content writing continues to evolve far beyond keyword-stuffed content. Learn more about creating natural, authoritative website copy here.

Editor’s note: Some of this content was originally written by Dan Kern in 2015. We’ve revised it and added new context to adhere to modern SEO copywriting best practices. 

Well-written, compelling online content is what persuades your customers to purchase your products above others. But they’ll never see that great content in the first place without proper SEO copywriting strategies.

SEO content writing is a must-have in today’s digital marketing world. Search engine results are only getting more crowded, and the right copywriting techniques make the difference between ranking on page one and getting buried on page 50.

Those strategies don’t have to be a mystery. Our SEO strategists have worked with dozens of eCommerce businesses to craft search-engine-friendly content, and we’re sharing our proven best practices with you today. Heads up: There’s a lot to cover, but every strategy in our SEO copywriting guidelines is crucial to success. 

If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of doing it all on your own, reach out to our SEO team for help.

What is SEO Copywriting?

SEO copywriting has evolved a lot over the years. Gone are the days of awkward, keyword-stuffed content meant to “trick” Google into ranking your content on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Today, the key to successful copywriting is what it always should have been: authoritative, natural, compelling content that gracefully uses keywords and semantically related verbiage that is both directly and indirectly relevant to a user’s search query. 

While SEO content writing still involves the strategic use of keywords (the search terms that users type into Google and other search engines to find what they’re looking for), it’s not the only thing that matters anymore. By targeting keyword phrases in your website copy, you may increase the likelihood of your content being served higher in SERPs — but your content won’t get very far if that’s the extent of your SEO strategy.

Why? Contrary to popular belief, writing content for SEO isn’t the primary focus of the best SEO copywriters. They don’t write solely for search engines; they use comprehensive strategies to first and foremost educate and inform the reader — and then use search engine optimization to bring in the readers they’ve been writing for.

SEO copywriting is crucial for every business, but especially for those in the eCommerce space. To beat your competitors, you need copy that not only motivates your consumer to purchase but also gets your products seen before others.

Don’t worry: It’s not as impossible as it seems. By using both eCommerce copywriting best practices and proven SEO copywriting tips and tactics, you can start driving traffic to your website and see an increase in consumer conversion rate.

6 SEO Copywriting Best Practices

The specifics of your SEO copywriting strategy will depend upon your products, website, and industry. However, there are some key tactics that apply for every business and every vertical. 

They are:

  1. Proper keyword targeting
  2. Enticing media usage
  3. Reader-friendly formatting
  4. Internal linking
  5. Meta data optimization
  6. Reader-focused copy

1. Use keywords properly and effectively.

Keyword usage is still an integral part of SEO copywriting. But it’s not as simple as doing some basic research, throwing keywords on the page, and hoping for the best.

We employ several strategies to target keywords for and indicate user search intent to search engines — without creating a subpar consumer experience.

Use important keywords more frequently.

During your keyword research process, you will identify the more important keywords (usually those highly relevant to your product and/or high-volume and short-tail). Focus on these keywords for the best chance at pulling in organic search traffic.

When using a primary keyword, look at the overall length of your copy. While there’s no magic number or “keyword density level” you should try to hit, make sure the main keyword is included an appropriate amount of times to show search engines what the page’s focus is.

Use semantically related keywords.

LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords) are semantically related to your target keyword. They aren’t necessarily synonyms but instead keywords that are frequently found with your target keywords because they share a similar context.

For example, if you’re writing content for your “camping tents” category page, you might also want to target phrases like “camping house,” “sleeping tent,” and “outdoor sleeping tent.”

You can use keyword research tools like Ahrefs’ “Also Rank for” or Semrush’s “Related” functions to identify these terms. Our strategists also use Clearscope to identify other important/related terms that are often explained as part of that topic and to compare our content to those pages that are already ranking for that target audience search intent.

Use keywords in headings and subheadings.

Where it makes sense to do so, use target and primary keywords in your H1 and meta page title — as close to the beginning as possible, because this header position holds more weight with search engines. Add unique words from the secondary keyword phrases later in the meta page title for a more semantically descriptive and keyword-rich meta page title.

An eCommerce example: The keywords “how to choose hiking boots” (primary), “how to choose trail hiking boots” (secondary), and “how to choose mountain hiking boots” (secondary) could be combined into the following meta page title: “How to Choose Hiking Boots for Mountain Trails.”

Make sure the meta page title reads naturally and is enticing, as this is the first look users get as your content. To get ideas, review the paid search ads at the top of the SERPs. Part of the reason they rank there is because their titles/messaging are compelling and, in return, they get higher click-through-rate (CTR).

Don’t forget your subheadings, either. These locations are viewed as important areas within the body content because they outline the focus of the content. Use primary and secondary keywords here via <h2>, <h3> and <h4> sub-headlines, as it makes sense to do so.

Use the exact searchable format

It’s best to include each keyword in the exact searchable format, with variations where possible. 

For example, if a keyword term is “luxury vacation rentals,” it should be placed into the copy in that exact order (if it sounds natural). Use variations of the term — such as “rentals for a luxury vacation” or “luxurious vacation rentals” — for extra brownie points.

If an exact-match keyword sounds ridiculous within the copy, it’s best to avoid it. Instead, use related terms that create informative copy that reads naturally.

Above all, make sure to use them naturally.

Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past. Google can identify an unusual amount of keywords in copy and will dock your content. It’s also awkward for readers. 

Remember: The primary goal of quality content is to help users and provide them with what they are looking for, not to please Google. That’s why we cannot stress it enough: Use keywords naturally. 

Re-read your content after it is written. If it doesn’t sound natural, reevaluate your keyword usage. 

2. Use visual media and enticing language to increase dwell time.

The longer a user stays on your page, the more valuable Google considers that content. If your user bounces from your site back to Google search results too quickly, it negatively affects your web page’s performance metrics, which can impact your organic ranking.

There are a few SEO copywriting best practices you can use here:

  • Rich media: Embed high-quality imagery (including animated gifs and infographics) and videos to prevent high bounce rates and increase the user’s time on your site. Keep site speed in mind when adding these items.
  • “Bucket Brigades”: Bucket brigades are phrases used to help improve bounce rate, expand average time on page, and improve the overall user experience. Use phrases like “Wait, there’s more,” “But you might be wondering,” “Look,” and more in places where a reader may typically abandon your page.

3. Format your content for online readability.

Online readers have much lower attention spans than print readers. They’re often scanning or searching for the information most relevant to their specific needs or query, and they don’t have the time to wade through blocks of text to find what they’re looking for.

So, you need to break up your site content with different formatting styles in order to create an easily scannable (and visually appealing) web page of content. 

Here are a few options (check them out in action throughout this blog):

Boldfacing & Italicizing

  • Bold or italicize key information to emphasize it to both readers and search engines.
  • Try to spread this usage out on the page, rather than clustering them.
  • Don’t overdo it.

Subheadings

  • Subheadings (aka “subtitles”: h2, h3, h4) help to segment content into subtopics.
  • This is a good place to put primary, secondary, and tertiary keywords, because subheadings are given a little extra weight by search engines.
  • Subheadings should provide transition, flow, and organization to the content.

Using Lists

  • Lists help users to quickly scan content and comprehend it. They also make your copy more attractive.
  • Lists should indent slightly (20-50 pixels).
  • Bulleted lists should be used to detail user benefits of the topic at hand.
  • Numbered lists should be used to outline steps of a process, prioritize, or order the topic at hand.

At the same time, you should avoid these formatting mistakes:

  • Table HTML, which interferes with most mobile designs because of its restrictive nature.
  • Lack of whitespace, which makes content difficult to read. Ensure that there is ample “breathing room” in between sentences, between images and paragraph content, and between the end of a paragraph and a succeeding subtitle.
  • Overly large or overly small fonts. Typically, 11–13 point font for the main paragraph text should suffice.
  • Off-color subtitles and other stylistic elements. Keep within the scope of a color palette to ensure that content appears professional.

4. Use internal linking to help other content rank.

Link building is an important part of SEO copywriting best practices. It’s also a great advantage on eCommerce sites, especially for users who are still browsing your products.

Within each piece of content, link to 1–3 other related pages on the website. Internal linking passes link equity throughout your site and helps your other pages rank higher in search engines, too. In addition, it encourages users to click deeper into your site.

You should also use keyword-rich internal text links to point to those pages where it makes sense, and make sure the anchor text varies across the site.

Here’s how to use them:

  • Use the primary keyword for the page being linked to as the anchor text (be sure it sounds natural).
  • Vary the link text, and do not use the exact same text every time you link to a page. 
  • The higher up in the site structure an optimized page is, the more internal links should be pointed at it.
  • Try to spread links throughout the content instead of clustering them together, unless there is a valid reason to do so (such as a bulleted list of links to related resources).

5. Optimize your meta data.

Web pages use metadata to allow search engines and social media sites to better understand different elements of the page and how to use them for their own purposes. Here’s how to optimize each aspect for your SEO strategy:

Meta Title Tags

Meta title tags are those that show up in search results and within your page’s tab on a user’s internet browser. This is one of the first introductions to your page that a reader sees.

  • Use 60 characters or fewer (including spaces and punctuation). Google will use ellipses after roughly 60–65 characters (based on pixel width).
  • Use the primary keyword phrase (exact match is preferable) at the beginning.
  • When appropriate, use unique words from the secondary and tertiary keywords later in the meta title to help naturally include more keywords.
  • Limit unnecessary words — such as conjunctions (use “&” instead of “and”) and prepositions — to keep the character count under 60 and focused on explaining what a user will find.
  • Blend keywords to maximize space. For example, if your keywords are “diamond earrings” and “earrings made in USA,” you could use “Diamond Earrings – Made in the USA | YourBrandName” as your meta title.
  • Make your meta title compelling. It has the biggest impact on your CTR.

Here’s what an optimized meta title looks like within the SERPs. Notice the primary and secondary related keywords, and how they are bold-faced by Google in the SERP. The character count is also kept within the ideal limits.

Optimized meta description in Google search engine results, with secondary and primary keywords bolded under the meta title.

Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag is the “preview” text that appears below your meta title tag within the SERPs. It’s another opportunity to grab a searcher’s attention and increase the likelihood of them clicking on your copy.

  • Use 155-160 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation). Google will use ellipses after roughly 160 characters (based on pixel width).
  • A meta description does not directly impact search engine rankings, but it can impact CTR.
  • Google will boldface keywords in the meta description, so here are some tips:
    • Use the primary keyword phrase (or a variation) somewhere within it. Variations to consider:
      • Singular/plural
      • Synonyms
      • Different word order
      • Different tense
      • Different word forms (noun to verb, etc.)
    • If you are unable to include any of the researched keywords in full/exact order in the page title, try to include them here.

The meta description tag is an “elevator pitch” for a web page within search engine results. Therefore, it should:

  • Be compelling to the search (focus on the benefits to them)
  • Have proper grammar
  • Include a call to action
  • Promise what the page delivers

The following meta description example shows how ellipses are used by Google when the meta description is too long. Notice, however, the compelling nature and call to action in addition to keyword usage.

Optimized meta description in Google search engine result, with meta description cut off for length.

Image Alt and Title Attributes

Image alt attributes are used by search engines to help the visually impaired know which images are used on a page. Image title attributes are used to display a message when readers hover their mouse cursor over the image. 

Make sure to:

  • Accurately describe exactly what the image is.
  • Keep it relatively short (10–15 words max).
  • If it makes sense to use a target term in the alt text to describe the image, this can be done. It’s important not to use the same keywords on all images and over-optimize the page.

Link Title Attributes

Link title attributes display a message to the user when hovering a mouse cursor over them. Just like image title tags, these can be used creatively to combine keywords with calls to action.

6. Always remember the reader.

Many new content writers make the mistake of focusing too much on writing content for SEO (that is, search engines), rather than the real audience: the reader. Yes, your website copy should be optimized for search engines, but it should always be written for the real person who will come to your site.

We’ve all used search engines, and we’ve all come across pages in SERPs that promise one thing but deliver another. No matter how well your page is optimized for Googlebot, if the reader can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re quickly going to leave and look at another result. Google knows it, too; that’s why algorithms have changed over the decades to prioritize user experience, not SEO-focused writing.

If there’s one thing you should take from this list of best practices, it’s that SEO should never be the sole focus of any copy you write. You should first and foremost start with clear, concise, and informational copy, with optimization serving as a secondary focus. Only then will you create compelling content marketing that provides a stellar experience for your readers — serving up the best reading experience that answers their questions and concerns.

Remember: SEO Success Takes Time

Here’s the final thing to keep in mind: It takes time to see SEO copywriting techniques work. You can’t change one page’s title and expect new visitors to come flooding to your site the next day. It’s important to make continuous improvements to the website with the goal of improving the overall quality. 

It usually takes a few weeks to a few months for noticeable changes to appear, which is why it’s so important to optimize your copy from the very first publish date. You can also try out SEO testing tactics to identify successful strategies more quickly and before rolling them out across your webpage types.

Find the SEO Copywriting Strategy that Works for Your Business

Clearly, there’s a lot that goes into successful search engine optimization copywriting. You’re not alone if the list above makes your eyes swim.

Fortunately, you can start with the simplest SEO copywriting best practices and still see results. For example, you might begin by optimizing meta data on all of your category and product pages before diving into a full-fledged SEO blogging strategy. Your site may see gradual gains until you have the bandwidth to go deeper into the copywriting process.

If you want to see more immediate organic traffic increases (as immediate as SEO allows for), consider working with a professional team of SEO marketers, like Inflow’s. Our strategists offer custom eCommerce copywriting services developed with your website and industry in mind. You can request a free proposal anytime to see what we can do for you.

4 Advanced Meta Tags For SEO You Might Not Be Using But Should

If you’re a marketer or SEO, you likely already know about the importance of title tags and meta descriptions to help improve your rankings. But as with most things in marketing, going a little further can reap much better results.  While most marketers stop at title tags, using advanced meta tags can help you communicate […]

The post 4 Advanced Meta Tags For SEO You Might Not Be Using But Should appeared first on CXL.

If you’re a marketer or SEO, you likely already know about the importance of title tags and meta descriptions to help improve your rankings. But as with most things in marketing, going a little further can reap much better results. 

While most marketers stop at title tags, using advanced meta tags can help you communicate to  Google which landing pages on your websites are most important and, in the process, improve your rankings.

In this article, I’ll share four advanced HTML tags that can help you improve the rankings of your most valuable and highest-converting pages. 

1. Robots (<meta name= “robots”>) 

The meta robots tag gives site owners control over whether Googlebot crawls and indexes their pages. Site owners can use robots directives to give Googlebot specific crawling and indexing instructions. The primary robots directives include:

  • “index, follow”: Tells Googlebot to crawl and index the page normally
  • “index, nofollow”: Tells Googlebot to index the page but to ignore the links on the page
  • “noindex, nofollow”: Tells Googlebot not to index the page or follow the links on the page

Here is an example of a robots tag with the “index, follow” directive.

Many site owners default to “index, follow” on every web page of their site thinking they can only benefit from Google crawling all of them. But not all of our web pages need to rank. If there’s a page with low quality or out of date content, it’s unlikely to convert visitors and can hurt your reputation according to Google and other search engines.  

Adding nofollow, is a proactive approach to ensuring pages that aren’t high quality aren’t seen or discovered naturally through search. 

Here are some examples of when you might want to add the robots “noindex, nofollow” meta tag to specific pages on your site. 

  • When the page is unimportant or has thin content (and therefore is unlikely to rank well.)
  • For product pages that are seasonal, have low inventory, or out-of-stock items.
  • Enterprise sites that have limited crawl budget and need to ensure their higher-converting pages are crawled and indexed.
  • When the page lacks conversion potential (e.g. admin pages, login pages, confirmation pages, etc.)

Consider performing a site wide content audit, and adding “noindex, nofollow” to pages that fall under the above criteria. 

How to add the robots tag

There are two ways to harness the power of robots tags to guide search engine crawlers to your most important pages:

By adding robots meta tags to individual pages or creating and uploading a robots.txt file. 

The first is most useful if you want to add robots tags to single pages.

Here’s how to do it.

If you’re using a popular CMS like WordPress or Wix, there are plugins that make it easy to specify your preferred directive on the frontend without having to even look at a single line of code. That said, if you have dev resources you can have them help you out as well.  If you’re short on team resources and not very technical yourself, using a plugin such as Yoast is a great start. 

If you want to add meta tags to the HTML page yourself, you can write your code in a text editor or use a meta tag generator tool like below. Again, it’s very important you don’t go making massive changes if you’re unsure what you’re doing. 

Then, copy and paste that code in the <head> section of your HTML page. 

If you’re wanting to prevent crawling or indexing for multiple pages or an entire section of your site, it’s much more efficient to do so via a robots.txt file. Here’s how to do so:

1. Generate the text for the robots.txt file. If you want to write the code yourself in a text editor you can, but in my experience it’s much easier and cost effective to use a tool. Here’s a free robots.txt generator you can use.

2. Make sure you add your xml sitemap to the robots.txt file so Google’s crawlers easily find it.

3. Upload your file to the root directory of your website.

4. Test your file with a robots.txt tester. These tools operate like crawlers and will test whether Googlebot will ignore the pages specified in the file

Again, the major benefit of robot tags is that you can encourage Google to index your higher performing pages. 

The higher the number of landing pages on your site, the more impactful robots can be. For enterprise websites that may max out their crawl budget, these tags can prevent your most important pages from going unindexed. 

2. Rel canonical (rel=”canonical”)

The purpose of the rel=”canonical” tag is to communicate to Google which version of a landing page is the highest quality. Or, to put it another way, the version that you want Google to promote in search results. 

Generally speaking, Google doesn’t like duplicate content and is less likely to rank your web pages if it believes they are too similar. But there are many legitimate cases in which similar content is required. For example, many product pages might be similar with just a few minor tweaks. 

Here is an example of what a rel canonical looks like in HTML:

The rel canonical tag points to the canonical url, or the url that represents the ‘master version’ of the page. In the above example, “https://www.xero.com/us/why-xero/your-business/” is the canonical url.

When Google crawls the web page where this attribute is located, it will understand that it’s a duplicate version of the master. Also, by knowing that the canonical url is the preferred one, Google will generally promote that web page more often in relevant search queries.

Here are some ideal use cases for this tag:

  • When you have multiple versions of the same landing page. 
  • When you have landing pages with thin or very similar content (i.e. product pages.)
  • For publishers who syndicate content.
  • Ecommerce sites who programmatically build out landing pages for every city or state such as Lyft with airport content. 

How to add rel canonical tags

There are different SEO theories as to whether or not to add rel canonicals on every page of your website. That said, not using Rel canonicals is a decision in itself. If you don’t suggest to Google which version of your landing page is the master, its crawlers will assign canonical urls for you. 

For that reason, I typically recommend adding canonicals to all of your landing pages. Canonical urls are also crawled more regularly by Googlebot, meaning Google will see those updates or optimizations you make to your important pages sooner.

Here’s how to add rel canonicals:Choose which version of the landing page you want to be the master. I recommend the page that has the highest-quality content and is most likely to rank well and convert visitors.

1.) Choose which version of the landing page you want to be the master. I recommend the page that has the highest-quality content and is most likely to rank well and convert visitors.

2.) Add a self-referencing canonical link on the master page. Again, not all SEOs agree that you need a self-referencing canonical, but in my experience it can be worth it.

Here’s an a Microsfot web page that includes a self-referencing canonical.

3.) Add identical canonical tags to all of the similar pages. You can use a rel canonical generator (here’s an easy, free one) or write the code in a text editor. Rel canonicals should be placed in the <head> section of your website along with your other meta tags.

Like robots tags, rel canonicals give you the ability to help influence which pages Google shows to searchers. Taking these extra steps with your technical SEO can have a significant impact on conversion rates across your website.

3. Hreflang (rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”)

If your website serves international markets and has language variations of the same landing page, the hreflang tag is very powerful for both SEO and conversion optimization. 

Google uses a browser’s location to understand the user’s language intent. The hreflang tag specifies whether a page has different language variations, so Google will then show the user the version of the page based on their geographic region or preferred language. 

If your website is targeting search terms that have a global audience, hreflang tags can help ensure the appropriate content is to show to the most relevant audience and in the process improve your rankings. 

A landing page with multiple hreflang tags 

You can use hreflang tags in situations unrelated to languages specifically as well. Hreflang tags can point to pages with content that is in the same language but has regional variations. 

In the above example, the alternate pages are all in English (en), but the site owner is telling Google to show different versions of the landing pages that have been tailored to major markets in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, and others. Some of those locations still serve marketers in English, but the region impacts which content should be shown. 

Like rel canonicals, hreflang tags instruct Google to show specific urls over others. For this reason, if you utilize both, you want to make sure you don’t send Google’s crawlers conflicting instructions. Here are a few tips:

  • If your canonical tag identifies another page as the canonical url, but your hreflang identifies several language variations of the current url, Google is not going to understand which page to promote.
  • In general, only add hreflang tags to your web pages that have self referencing canonicals.

It’s for these reasons that the above hreflang tags are located on a page with a self-referencing canonical.

How to add Hreflang tags

Before you add hreflang tags, you need to create the language variations or regional variations of your page. This is arguably the most time-consuming part of the process. The differences in those pages will be best determined by your own content and marketing teams.

Once your variations have been created and published, you can use hreflang to ensure Google shows each individual searcher the version of the page that is most tailored to them. 

There are two ways to go about this: 1) Adding hreflang tags to individual pages, or 2) Specifying language variations in your sitemap. 

To add the hreflang attribute to individual pages, do the following. 

  1. Determine which is your default url and all of the urls with language or regional variations (your variations don’t have to be in the same domain). 
  1. Write your hreflang tags in a text editor or using a hreflang generator tool.
  1. Each hreflang tag needs to have a specific HTML language and country code, so make sure to confirm your language and regional attributes are accurate.
  2. Add the hreflang link elements to the <head> section of your default url (you should have one link element per page variation)
  1. Add identical hreflang link elements to the <head> section of each of the language or regional web page variations
  2. Ensure that any rel canonicals on those web pages are self-referencing

You can also communicate to Google your language variations by adding hreflangs to your sitemap. However if you have hundreds of language variations, this can be a time consuming process. 

  1. Designate the language variations below the default url in your sitemap using the xhtml:link attribute. Your sitemap will look like this:
  1. Any alternative url that you specify with the xhtml:link attribute now also needs to be added to your sitemap (along with all of its variants).
  1. If you only have one page with a language variation, this can be done very quickly. But if you’re an enterprise level site with hundreds of language variations, this process can take a long time.

Overall, hreflang has a lot of SEO benefits. First of all, it improves the user experience, which can lower bounce rates, improve page sessions, and increase scroll depth. Additionally, if you have an international website, hreflang tags can also drastically improve conversion rates of the visitors you earn from organic search. 

4. Schema.org (Shared Vocabulary of microdata)

Schema.org markup is a shared vocabulary of microdata that is supported by most major search engines. For Google, schema tags help crawlers easily extract data and display it more prominently in the SERPs via their user-focused rich results. 

Google now has over 30 different types of rich results, and they are all designed to make your SERP result more clickable for the user. If your web page content aligns with a rich result type, there’s no reason not to be utilizing the subsequent schema.org markup. 

Here are some examples of common rich results in Google. 

Example of “Organization,” rich result.
Example of “Products” rich result.
Rich results for the search query “chocolate chip cookie recipe”

And here’s what the schema.org markup for that first recipe result looks like on the backend. Without this markup, the page would not have appeared in this prominent SERP placement.

The JSON-LD markup for a Recipe rich results

Schema.org markup is still an under-utilized optimization. It’s estimated that less than 1% of the web pages in Google’s index utilize schema, meaning adding these tags to your website can give you a huge advantage over your competitors in the rankings.

How to Add Schema.org Markup

Because every schema.org markup has different item properties and utilizes JSON-LD rather than traditional XML structure, adding schema.org isn’t necessarily a casual undertaking. 

For that reason, I strongly recommend working with a skilled web developer or utilizing a schema generator tool.  

If you want to try adding schema.org on your own, here is the simplest way to do so:

  1. Determine which type of rich result you desire for your web page (Here is a complete list). Make sure that your web page content naturally aligns with the rich result and you can identify all of the required item properties.
  2. Use a schema generator tool. Most of these tools function the same way. Choose your rich result, input the required item properties, and the tool will generate the JSON-LD markup for you.
Schema Creator tool from linkgraph.io
  1. Copy and paste the markup into the <head> or <body> of your HTML page. Although there are older encoding types for schema.markup that can still be understood by Google, JSON-LD is now the industry standard and is arguably the easiest to implement.

Here is an example of how schema.org takes web page content and extracts the data for a rich result. 

Frontend of a web page utilizing “Events” schema
Backend of the same web page utilizing “Events” schema with all of the required item properties in JSON-LD markup
The same web page in Google’s rich results for the keyword “kenny chesney concert” 

Driving organic traffic to your web pages is not just about ranking in Google, but also having them take action. Rich results are an easy way to improve the “clickability” of your content and to drive organic traffic to the most relevant information to their query. 

Conclusion

The reality is, most site owners aren’t taking the additional steps to utilize advanced meta tags because they aren’t comfortable working on the backend of their websites. But with so many tools available to generate accurate meta tags and microdata, it doesn’t have to be an intimidating process.  

Considering implementing a variety of these four.

  • Robots (<meta name= “robots”>) 
  • Rel canonical (rel=”canonical”)
  • Hreflang (rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”)
  • Schema (Shared Vocabulary of microdata)

If you want to take ownership of your technical SEO and give your best-performing web pages a competitive edge in the rankings, consider adding these meta tags and see how your rankings and conversion rates improve.

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A Marketers Guide to TF-IDF Optimization for SEO

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The post A Marketers Guide to TF-IDF Optimization for SEO appeared first on CXL.

As digital marketers, content is a critical part of everything we do. And while analyzing and refreshing content may take a lot of time and effort, the results for generating more traffic and improving SEO are clear. 

With the many things that go into creating content, such as competitor research, outreach and technical aspects of content, improving older content frequently takes a back seat—which in most cases, is a costly mistake. 

In this article, I’ll share how to use TF-IDF optimization to help you streamline your content process and make your old content better so you can rank higher and attract more leads.  

What is TF-IDF? 

While using the TF-IDF technique isn’t exclusive to the world of SEO, Moz defines it best:

TF-IDF stands for term frequency-inverse document frequency. It’s a text analysis technique that Google uses as a ranking factor — it signifies how important a word or phrase is to a document in a corpus (i.e. a blog on the internet). When used for SEO-purposes, it helps you look beyond keywords and into relevant content that can reach your audience.

On the surface, the formula may appear quite complex. So, let’s take a look at how to break things down in relation to content. 

TF = (Number of times a term appears in a document) / (Total number of terms in the document)

For example, let’s assume that the term “log cabin” in a document of 100 words shows 12 times. 

Your TF = 12/100=  0.12

With TF, we have solved the first part to count how many times the term “log cabin” is showing on our document.  The score of 0.12 represents the density of this term.

Now, we want to know how this term compares with rivals. We can calculate the IDF to obtain the comparison result, by dividing the number of documents the term appears in by the total number of documents in search results:

IDF = log_e(Total number of documents / Number of documents with term in it) 

Let’s put the second part of this formula to use. Say that from 1,000,000 results, some are mentioning “log cabin” and the number count is 409,000 times.

Now let’s solve the logarithm:

IDF(log cabin) = log_e(1,000,000/ 409,000 with term log cabin in it)= 0.38

With that, we now have the density and the importance. 

TF*IDF = Term Frequency times Inverse Document Frequency= 0.12 * 0.38= 0.046

Then you have also a result of your own TF*IDF. For the word “log cabin”, you have 0.017 while your rivals average is 0.046, which is higher than you.

The data gives you an indication that the term ‘log cabin’ is a common denominator in content that is ranking highly. 

Is TF-IDF just keyword stuffing?

If you’ve been involved with SEO for some time, you’re likely aware of the concept of keyword stuffing, that is, the process of adding keywords as much as possible to help your chances of ranking higher. 

This thing is, keywords density was an early attempt on how to game Google in performing TF-IDF optimisation. SEOs were trying to stuff their content with as many keywords as possible, and then Panda came and changed the rules of the game. 

While keyword stuffing may have worked in the past, the data is clear that doing so now can significantly hurt your rankings

No one gains value from seeing terms and phrases that aren’t naturally worded being added to content. While TF-IDF does help you better understand which words are used often in relation to SEO for example, the purpose isn’t to just then add those keywords randomly in your content. As always, Google continues to reward relevance to content trying to provide the best solution to a user’s query. 

TF-IDF for SEO

In the world of SEO, TF-IDF involves scraping search results for a given keyword and collecting the data on the usage of those words and phrases. 

For example, if you’re a SaaS owner and want to know how to attract more traffic using SEO, you’re likely interested in learning about the following topics. 

An “SEO guide” could cover the following: 

  • SEO audit;
  • Technical SEO;
  • Backlinks;
  • Page title;
  • H1, H2.

But there are also other terms that are very important in SEO that should be considered.

  • Tools;
  • Reporting;
  • SEO investment;
  • Algorithm updates.

While there are many ranking factors that search engines use, algorithms naturally take note of how often certain words and phrases appear across the web, and because the algorithms are advanced, they also count how many times this term appears in all of the search results in comparison with other terms. 

A TF-IDF “comparison score” can help you see how many times in a percentage a specific term appears. 

To understand more with an example, these are the keywords that I want to target with a landing page for a real estate developer: 

  • help to buy; 
  • help to buy scheme.

Using a TF-IDF tool,  here are some of the words that are suggested to add to the copy, based on analysing the top 10 sites on Google search results:

  • buy home
  • build home
  • payments on a mortgage
  • loan secured
  • get advice from a financial advisor
  • mortgage advice

There is a fundamental difference between retrieving variations of the same keyword and retrieving apparently unrelated, yet relevant, terms.

With TF-IDF analysis this is exactly what’s involved—with this type of analysis we will uncover exactly the terms used to consistently describe a topic better.

Hopefully, you’ll soon realise how important it is to have this type of information and the fact that it doesn’t require any data retrieval skill, you can appreciate how much time you can save. I have recently for example used a TF-IDF tool that suggested new terms to better describe the topic and improved ranking for my blog.

Inverse Document Frequency – the sweet spot between term frequency and content optimisation

How to use TF-IDF

To get the most from this exercise, make sure you’ve selected your articles and landing pages that are not performing as you’d like, for example, content you think is high quality but still stuck on page 2 or 3. 

Next you’ll need to choose a TF-IDF tool to use with your website.

There are a number of tools available like this one or this one. I love to use SEMRush On Page SEO Checker (no affiliations). If you are advanced in Python, you can follow this guide to even build your own TF-IDF tool. 

Enhanced keywords research

The biggest benefit of TF-IDF is that you can enrich your keyword research by adding not just those keywords people search for (hot tub breaks), but also keywords that Google found to appear quite often in search results. 

Without a TF-IDF analysis, you wouldn’t be able to discover that terms like “romantic breaks”, “dog friendly” and “group of friends” were related to some of the best ranking content around hot tubs. 

In-depth competitor research


If you’ve been doing SEO and content for a while, you’ve likely been in situations where you wonder why you’re ranking behind content that might otherwise be lower quality than yours.

We’ve been trained to think about getting better backlinks, longer content, more detailed content, internal links etc.

And while all of those points do matter, TF-IDF can give you a slight edge when including words and phrases that add value to your content while also being searched in relation to your terms you’re ranking for. 

For example, we’ve seen that having “log cabin” and “lodges with hot tub” should be considered in the body copy of a page that wants to rank high for “hot tub break.”

Again, the point isn’t to keyword stuff. That doesn’t work. You want to achieve some sort of relevance for the terms deemed to appear in the collection of content.

One of the benefits of doing so, is that you can uncover some interesting insights on how Google sees pages that are very similar. Pages that roughly the same number of backlinks, have optimised for the same keyword, have spot on on-page SEO but still rank on different places on search results. 

Once you have the data about the terms your rivals are using to better describe the topic, you can look at how competitors describe a given topic, what terms they use and how often, then optimize your content more effectively. 

How to read a TF-IDF report

Now that you know which terms you are missing in your copy that would describe your topic more concisely, it’s time to read the report, understand the metrics and start implementing. 

TF-IDF report.

Here’s a breakdown of the important terms. 

Word/ Phrase: the top 20 words used by your competitors to describe the topic of “hot tub breaks UK”

Rivals using this word: The number of your rivals using this word in the top 10 results. The more rivals using, the more important that word is.

Word/ Phrase usage: Compares how often on average this word is used in the body text from you vs your competition.

TFIDF: The result of the TF-IDF formula that retrieves the terms used in the comparison. It’s a great start for a brainstorming session of keywords describing a topic. 

What to do after the report

Now that you’ve used TF-IDF to improve your research and content, it’s time to show you an example of how copy looks like before and after.

Before and after TF-IDF.

I have added the terms on the right that my TF-IDF tool suggested to add to better describe the content. 

As you can see, there isn’t a lot of difference, I haven’t deleted anything, I have simply added to the content that is currently published on the page and found a natural way to add those terms in the flow.

The results? They speak for themselves.

In Google Analytics the same URL for the same period of time showed incredible growth despite the travel and hospitality industry took a big hit from Covid-19.

GA traffic report.

Older content is the best candidate for TF-IDF optimization. If you repeat the same process for each piece of content on your website, you can get quite a lot of cumulative gains across many pages without putting tons of hours into upgrading content the “old way.”

How should I use TF-IDF?

There are two main instances in which TF-IDF can be helpful

  1. When you do keywords research.
  2.  When your content doesn’t rank on page 1 of Google search results.

When you do keyword research 

Research your keywords to the best of your capabilities using the most common SEO tools at your disposal. Keep in mind that when researching these keywords, you are going to produce content that is not that much different from your competitors. 

Chances are that something has already been written and Google shows millions of results for a topic. 

Ranking well, is not just how long or through your content is, it’s also about how you’re able to describe things.  Your goal is to target not only those keywords you search for, but also those terms people want to see in the copy (based on your data.)

When your content isn’t ranking on the first page of Google 

After new content is published, most of the time it won’t rank on page 1 right away. Even if you have very high domain authority, a strong web presence and thousands of backlinks, there’s no guarantees. 

The connection between your topics and the new TF-IDF terms should be a natural addition to your content. It shouldn’t feel like you’re just stuffing keywords here and there. While it’s always beneficial to include variations of a keyword in a copy, the aim of TF-IDF isn’t to simply stuff each word into the copy a couple of times.

Use the information from a TF-IDF analysis to refine your content, have a look at the topics you haven’t covered yet and continue expanding on angles your content might have missed before.

For example, it could be that a product is missing information about the size and delivery costs, so adding a couple of paragraphs showing how size can impact delivery costs. Might make a big difference. Ultimately, TF-IDF is a valuable tool that can help you take your content and rankings to the next level. It’s not a magic button by any means, but those small changes can add up. 

Conclusion

  • Start using TF-IDF to uncover more relevant terms, topics, and keywords instead of using your gut feelings on what Google deems as relevant content.
    Gather data around specific competitors, keywords and topics that you want to target;
  • Continue to experiment with your learnings from TF-IDF analysis, understand the reports and what needs to be done to successfully optimise for it. The best way to do this is to test different changes over time. 
  • Spend more time analyzing which terms are important rather than spending too much time building backlinks. Results from your TF-IDF analysis can take some time. 

The post A Marketers Guide to TF-IDF Optimization for SEO appeared first on CXL.

A Guide to Core Web Vital Metrics for eCommerce Sites

Are you ready for Google’s Core Web Vitals update? Don’t worry if not — our complete guide has five recommendations for improving your site score.

Unless you’ve been living under an SEO rock, you know the deadline for Core Web Vitals ranking signals is rapidly approaching. Starting May 1, Google will start using these metrics as contributors to Page Experience.

It’s impossible to say exactly how these changes will affect organic performance and search engine results (SERPs) — but there’s no shortage of predictions for and research into Google’s largest algorithm update in years. In fact, new research from BrightEdge indicates that eCommerce and retail sites are the least likely to receive a ranking boost from the Core Web Vitals update.

But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on your eCommerce site meeting Core Web Vitals standards. Remember: A good page experience isn’t just critical for organic performance. It also plays a huge role in your users’ satisfaction and your site’s overall conversion rate.

We’ve been helping our clients prep for the Core Web Vitals update since it was first announced. And while there’s no single “proven” approach for beating Google at its own game, there are some strategies for improving your Core Web Vitals score, even with just a few weeks to go.

In this blog post, we’ll help you prep for the upcoming algorithm shift by explaining:

  • What Core Web Vitals metrics are and how to measure them
  • How important Core Web Vitals are in reference to your overall SEO strategy
  • And which five steps you can take to improve your site score

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are metrics created by Google that help measure and indicate the Page Load Performance of a webpage. Combined with existing Google page experience signals, they provide important insights into user experience on a webpage.

There are three Core Web Vitals metrics:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This measures the loading performance of a webpage. Scores are based on the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport.

2. First Input Delay (FID)

This measures the interactivity of a web page: the time from when a user first interacts with a page (by clicking a link, tapping on a button, or using Javascript-powered content) to when the browser actually being processing event handlers in response to that interaction.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This measures the visual stability of a webpage by evaluating layout shifts. Layout shifts occur any time a visible element changes its position from one rendered frame to the next — for example, shifts in appearance between mobile and desktop browsers.

CLS is calculated as the sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page. A “zero” score means no layout shifts; the larger the score, the more layout shifts on a page.

How to Measure Core Web Vitals with Google PageSpeed Insights

All three Core Web Vitals metrics can be measured with one Google tool: PageSpeed Insights. This tool measures how a single page performs across both mobile and desktop devices by reporting metrics as “good,” “needs improvement,” or “poor.”

Breakdown of Google's Core Web Vitals ranking scores by "good," "needs improvement," and "poor."
PageSpeed Insights provides both lab and field data about a page. (Field data can be seen in the screenshot above.) In comparison to lab data, field data better captures true, real-world experience, but it does have a more limited seat of metrics.

Core Web Vitals report showing field data of mobile analysis.

Lab data, on the other hand, is useful for debugging performance issues, because the data is collected in a controlled environment. However, it may not always capture real-world bottlenecks. Therefore, take both sets of data into account when creating your Core Web Vitals strategy.

Lab data from Core Web Vitals report of mobile analysis.

In addition to reporting metrics, the PageSpeed Insights tool also provides suggestions on how to improve a page. We recommend using it to spot-check individual page performance and gain insights from Google on what to prioritize. 

To check how your eCommerce site is performing, run a few product and category landing pages through the PageSpeed Insights tool. Take a note of what needs to be fixed, and then deploy those solutions across all pages of that type. Later, evaluate your page performance changes to see whether those changes were successful.

Why are Core Web Vitals So Important?

The short answer: Because Google says so.

The better answer: The Core Web Vitals update is another part of Google’s prioritization of sites that provide the best experience for the user. Core Web Vitals are folded into Page Experience ranking signals, which are designed to keep Google’s users satisfied in their searches. These ranking factors include creating a safe browsing experience (HTTPs), optimizing for mobile-friendliness, and being free of intrusive interstitials — all of which create a better interaction for the user with the web page.

But Google has been vague on the exact effect of the update. It recommends fixing any aspects of your site that fall under “poor” or “needs improvement.” But, once you’re in the green, you’re good. 

There’s little (if any) discernable difference between a 90 and 100 score; if your site is reporting decent or good scores, there are more worthwhile SEO strategies to spend your time, effort, and money on. Google says as much itself — subpar scores aren’t necessarily a barrier from having your pages served up in search results:

Page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages. Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

But, if your site is showing poor scores, Core Web Vitals could be a crucial part of your overall SEO strategy and resulting performance. We recommend addressing those areas of concern as soon as possible with an experienced development team.

5 Ways to Improve Core Web Vitals Scores on Your eCommerce Site

Every eCommerce site is different, and your site’s needs in regards to Core Web Vitals will be unique. Before you do anything else, we recommend a full audit by an experienced developer or technical SEO team to find out what your biggest issues are (and how to fix them).

That said, there are a few suggestions we have for improving your site’s Core Web Vitals scores, based on common issues we’ve seen during our clients’ site audits.

1. Continuously Evaluate Your Site’s Performance

We don’t expect all hell to break loose on May 1. Like many updates, Core Web Vitals metrics will likely take some time to roll out, and the impact on your organic performance probably won’t be seen right away.

That’s why we recommend a long-term approach. Watch your site’s performance over time leading up to and after May 1, and make changes as appropriate to continually improve your performance.

Rather than checking individual pages with PageSpeed Insights, you can easily evaluate your site’s cumulative performance through the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console. This tool shows URL performance grouped by status, metric type, and URL group — and also rates them as “poor,” “needs improvement,” or “good.” After you make a change to a group of URLs on your site, you can use the “Validate URL” button to ask Google to re-review performance.

Because this report tracks URLs over time, you can monitor your site’s performance before and after implementing changes. This will tell you whether your strategies are working. (You can also use an open-source auditing tool like Lighthouse to perform similar analysis.)

2. Eliminate Large Layout Shifts

More users than ever search for and compare products on their mobile devices. This year alone, mobile eCommerce sales are expected to make up 53.9% of all eCommerce sales.

Keeping that split in mind (and knowing that many users will use both devices during the research process), Core Web Vitals metrics will help reward sites and retailers who present a united appearance across mobile and desktop devices. Your site’s mobile layout shouldn’t be an afterthought or a poor copy of our desktop layout. In fact, with Google’s mobile-first update, it should be the optimization priority.

We see a few common eCommerce site features bring down overall layout score:

  • Ad slots (especially those that collapse when there’s no ad)
  • Chat features, particularly on the mobile side
  • Banners above the fold

Your developer should be able to minimize layout shifts by deploying responsive screens and prioritizing load time for the biggest offenders impacting your CLS score.

3. Scale Down Your Images and Videos

You don’t need us to tell you how crucial images and videos are to eCommerce sites. Your customers want to see as many details about your products as possible — so the more, the better, right?

Only when they’re properly optimized.

Large images may display fine on desktops and tablets, but they can seriously slow down your mobile site and negatively impact your users’ page experience. They’re also a huge detriment to your Core Web Vitals performance.

Work with your developer to determine which image sizes are best for your site and start implementing that standard across your site. You may be able to use an image resizing plugin (like ShortPixel Adaptive Images), or you may have to make individual page updates after prioritizing the largest images. 

Don’t forget your featured images and any videos as well. Native videos can be replaced by embeds from Youtube or Vimeo to cut down on load speed.

Moving forward, make sure to always include width and height size attributes on your images and video elements.

4. Load Page Content in Viewing Order

Most eCommerce sites have a lot going on for each webpage: images, videos, product page links and embeds, and more. A browser will automatically try to load all of these assets in sequential order; if you do not have your most important assets prioritized, it can negatively impact your Core Web Vital metrics.

We recommend prioritizing the loading of your page content as your viewer sees it by preloading important resources and implementing lazy load images. In short, content that appears above the fold should load first; additional content should wait until a visitor scrolls down the page to view it. This can improve your time to First Contentful Paint and time to interactive.

Talk to your developer about eliminating render-blocking resources to deliver critical Javascript and CSS first and defer all non-critical Javascript and CSS styles. They can ensure important page assets are delivered to the visitor first, without wasting page speed uploading what isn’t yet necessary to view.

5. Use a Content Delivery Network to Employ Aggressive Caching

A content delivery network (CDN) is an amazing asset for reducing page load speed. It minimizes load lag time between your site’s server and your user’s browser by caching page information for future page loads. While the difference between using and not using a CDN can seem minimal to most (often a few seconds), it can impact your load speed score immensely.

If you don’t have a CDN in place, when a customer loads your site, the page files are accessed from wherever your main server is hosting them. The server stores those files through caching, preventing a browser from re-downloading everything on a page every time it’s visited.

But, if that server isn’t local, loading time will lag. For example, if your customer is located in Florida and your server is located in Europe, those files will take a longer time to load on your customer’s browser.

A CDN spreads your network out, reducing that lag time. Instead of just one server, your site can be loaded from dozens of different servers. A user’s browser will load files from the server closest to them, and your page speed score will lift.

The CDN’s caching abilities also ensure a page’s assets are displayed faster the second time a consumer visits the site, because the assets are already downloaded from the server and stored in the CDN.

If you don’t have a CDN, now’s the time to get one. Speak with your developer about which CDN is right for your eCommerce site and getting it implemented for page speed improvements.

Prepare Your eCommerce Site for Core Web Vitals Now

With just a few weeks to go until the implementation of Core Web Vitals ranking signals, your eCommerce site has no time to lose. But don’t panic! Focusing on the biggest challenges now can help put you in the right position for the update rollout.

While we’ve offered some helpful places to start, we simply can’t cover every aspect of an exhaustive Core Web Vitals audit in this blog. If you’re still playing catch-up, start with the suggestions above and work your way forward from there.

When you and your developer are ready to dig deeper into the weeds, check out these additional resources:

Want to stay on top of Google updates like Core Web Vitals in the future? Our SEO team can create a custom strategy for your site’s SEO success, whatever changes may come. Request a free proposal anytime for more information.

Understanding Google Webmaster Tools

As much as you might think Google is making it hard to get traffic, they really aren’t. They have tools like Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. The difference between the two are the fact that Google Analytics measures your traffic, and Google Webmaster Tools tells you how Google actually sees your website. This article…

The post Understanding Google Webmaster Tools appeared first on Diamond Website Conversion.

google-webmaster-tools-logo-thumbnailAs much as you might think Google is making it hard to get traffic, they really aren’t. They have tools like Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. The difference between the two are the fact that Google Analytics measures your traffic, and Google Webmaster Tools tells you how Google actually sees your website.

This article is written to help you understand Google Webmaster Tools better. In fact, this article is part of a series, so there will be other parts to check out so you can become more familiar with Google Webmaster Tools.

Understanding Google Webmaster Tools

As mentioned before, Google Webmaster Tools is designed for you to see how the search engine (Google) sees your website. Consider it kind of like the doctor promoting healthy search for websites. Some of the results are:

  • Sharing what type of markup data format the search engines are seeing in your site, like Schema.org
  • Suggesting how to improve user experience and performance
  • Allowing you to demote specific areas of your site from Sitelinks
  • Giving a details list of search queries done on your website
  • Giving a list of links to sites linking into your website
  • Listing internal links
  • Showing Index status
  • Giving a list of keywords that are organized by the most significant one first
  • Allowing you to remove URLs from your website
  • Displaying crawl errors, as well as what types of errors
  • Having the ability to block URLs from the search engines
  • Being alerted if there are any security issues

In order to be able to use Google Webmaster tools, you must sign up and submit your website. The process involves putting a verification code somewhere on your website or verifying it through your domain registrar. After you verify the site, you need to submit a sitemap, once that is a valid Sitemaps.org sitemap.

The Sitemap.org valid sitemap allows Google to easily crawl the site. The markup used that search engine crawl is XML. For website owners that use WordPress and have the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, finding the link to the sitemap is easy. For other content management systems, there is a somewhat equivalent method to find the sitemap. For static websites (ones not powered with a database and may be solely HTML), building a sitemap may be necessary.

Once the sitemap has been submitting, Google may take a little while to crawl the site. Some site are lucky to be crawled within the week, and others, two weeks. After your site has been crawled, you can view information on what Google is seeing.

search-queries-gwt-screenshotYou probably will want to make sure that there are no crawl errors like a page not found, or any server issues. You will also want to make sure to observe if you have any duplicate meta descriptions and duplicate title tags to improve your search results. You obviously don’t want the same article description for several posts, right? 😉

Another area you might want to check out is the search queries. It’s probably good to check out the first time in order to make sure that the keywords are relevant to what your website is about. If they aren’t, you might need to go back and improve your content.

One last area that you should check is to make sure your site isn’t flagged for spam, duplicate content, or has any security issues. If you’re accepting paid links, you probably should stop. Google has gone to great lengths to discourage website owners from accepting paid links. If you have any alerts, fix the issue. Once done with fixing anything that was flagged, you can reply to Google’s team and they will review to make sure your site is not violating any of their rules.

It’s important to understand that Google Webmaster Tools can be a powerful tool in making sure your website is listed as accurately as possible on the search engine results.

Do you use Google Webmaster Tools?

The post Understanding Google Webmaster Tools appeared first on Diamond Website Conversion.