The Trick to Writing for SEO

Writing can be difficult for a lot of people. Even those of us gifted with a passion for wordsmithing can often find ourselves hitting walls when it comes to creating the right copy for the right occasions. This perhaps happens most often in the world of SEO copy.

For many, SEO copy is a difficult beast to wrangle. Not only does it involve checking off all the boxes of any other writing (easy to read, good grammar, economy of words, etc.) but it also needs to include the kind of content that will catch the favor of search engines. A lot of writers tend to get hung up on that last part, sacrificing their normally stellar writing styles for a difficult-to-read, keyword-stuffed tome that could only be enjoyed by search bots.

The one thing that a lot of people don’t realize about creating search engine optimized copy is that it doesn’t need to be approached much differently than one would normally approach their copy. With a few small tweaks and a solid plan, you can easily strike a balance between engaging content and SEO-friendly content.

Here are a few ways to create great SEO copy that will be loved by spiders and humans alike.

Keyword Research

As with many SEO-related tasks, you’ll want to start with a solid keyword research plan. There are a lot of ways you can do keyword research. Using SEMrush or Ahrefs are good options, but they costs money. If you’re coin purse is feeling a little light (especially if a certain coronavirus has crushed your business and budget), try Keywords Everywhere (which is mostly free) or Keyword Keg, which offers some free options and some very affordable paid options.

Once you have a list of optimal keywords, it’s time to brainstorm. Pick a handful of the most relevant and highly-searched keywords and jot them down. Next, begin thinking of synonyms and related terms. Feel free to use a thesaurus, if you like, or a free online tool like or the Google Keyword Planner. Once you have some related terms, put them aside—we’ll come back to those in a minute.

Organize Your Thoughts

You likely already have a pretty strong idea of what you want to write about. And while jumping head first into writing may seem like the next best step, consider making an outline first.

An outline not only helps you stay focused during the writing process, but it also allows an opportunity to contextually organize what you want to say. Why is this important? Because search engines, Google in particular, are all about context and relationships these days. Just like a human would, spiders often figure out the purpose of a page by comparing its content against itself and against the content on the rest of the site.

For instance: Before smart phones really took off, people used to search with single words or concepts. For instance, someone looking for a local pizza joint might type something like “pizza place” or “pizza place in Philly.” But because mobile searches and voice searches have gotten so popular, the average person has evolved to the point of asking Google questions instead, such as “What’s the best pizza place in Philly?” or “Which pizza places in Philly sell beer?”

To take advantage of this, you need to anticipate potential questions a reader may have and fashion your content towards that. This can be difficult, however, a quick brainstorming session can go a long way.

Don’t be afraid to go long

It’s no secret that Google tends to rank longer-form content a bit better than shorter content. This isn’t because Google is “rewarding” higher word counts, but usually because those longer pieces are more comprehensive and answer more potential questions for users.

So, when creating your copy, consider writing something a bit more long-form that covers all the possible topics that could relate to your theme. By doing this, you’re essentially casting out a larger net and may end up ranking for more relevant searches than you might with a shorter piece of content.

That said, you don’t want to add words to a document just for the sake of it. Adding fluff doesn’t help readers, so it likely won’t help in Google’s eyes, either. Always practice “quality over quantity.”

Don’t use too many keywords (or use certain keywords too often)

You have your keywords, you have your outline, you have all the topics you want to cover—you’re ready to write. But unfortunately, this is the part where a lot of people get hung up. The reason? Keywords.

As mentioned earlier, the right keywords are essential to a successful SEO campaign, however, sometimes we put a little too much emphasis on them. When this happens, we often end up with hard-to-read, keyword-stuffed content that borders on nonsense. Not only does this suck for readers, but it sucks for search engines, too—and they’ll show you how much it sucks with lower rankings.

The best way to combat this? Be yourself! Put the keywords aside and start off by writing as you normally would, using the verbiage you normally would. Once you get a draft committed to paper, go back and think about places where keywords could organically fit into the copy without affecting readability. By being yourself and not thinking about keywords, you may find that you’ve already done this naturally!

The trick here is to be careful not to use a keyword too much. Instead, bring out those synonyms we discussed earlier. Part of Google’s charge toward understanding context included understanding the relationships between words (for instance, Google likely knows that a hoagie, a sub, and a grinder are all the same thing). Take advantage of this by using some of those synonyms you found earlier in your copy. This could potentially help the content rank for a wider range of searches as it could potentially answer a wider range of queries.

Layout matters

To varying degrees, search engines take readability and usability into account when ranking a page. To take advantage of this, you’ll want to make sure your post isn’t just a giant block of text but is instead broken up in a way that makes it easier for a reader to consume.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by breaking up your content into sections—similar to how you did earlier with the outline. Make sure each section is designated with its own subhead line, and that said subhead line is contextually relevant to the section it’s introducing (also make sure you’re judiciously using keywords to create it).

Also try to take advantage of numbered and bulleted lists, if it makes sense for your copy. Not only does this make it easier for users to process the copy, but Google tends to favor these as well.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to process in the above steps, but if I can impart one primary lesson it’s this: Stay true to your writing! While it’s tempting to write copy for rankings, what’s most important is the message you’re trying to convey and doing it in a way that resonates with readers. If you write great content, great rankings are likely to follow!

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“Some of the best things in life are free.”

Usually people only say that to help them forget that they can’t afford that one awesome thing they’ve always had their eye on (I’ll have you yet, iPad Pro!). But in the world of online marketing, not just some but many of the best things are free. Software, tools, plugins—you name it. But out of all those free resources, one reigns supreme: Google Analytics.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful data collection and tracking tools available, and it’s literally a must-have for almost any website. Just about any activity that a person may do on your website—visit a page, jump across multiple pages, click on a button, submit a form, and so on—can be easily tracked with a Google Analytics account. We could create an endless list of reasons why data like that is valuable to just about any webmaster—particularly those that plan to monetize their sites.

Along with “free” and “powerful,” you can also add “easy to use” to the list of Google Analytics’ myriad benefits. It only takes a few minutes and minimal tech skills to unlock a world of actionable traffic data. It’s so easy, in fact, that you can do it by just following these simple steps.

Please Note: This is just a bare-bones, straight-to-the-point explanation of how to set up Google Analytics. The more detailed stuff will be explained in a follow-up post.

Step 1: Create a Google account

Before you get started, you’re going to need to set up an account with Google—in other words, a Gmail account. A basic Gmail account is an all-access pass to most of Google’s products, so having one is imperative for anyone aiming for a successful web presence.

If you already have a Gmail account, you can use that. Same goes for G Suite or any of Google’s small business solutions. If you don’t have any of those (or you’d rather create a new account dedicated to your Google Analytics activity) then you’ll want to create a new account by going here. <link:>


Signing up is pretty straight-forward. Fill out all the information asked of you and click the submit button. When doing this, though, be sure to use your primary phone number and an email account you check often. If you ever lose your password—or worse, get hacked—these will be your lifeline.

Once you’ve submitted your info and accepted terms and conditions, you’ll land on a page full of options for customizing your account. You can ignore that for now as none of it is directly connected to Google Analytics. But definitely take the time to come back and check it out later!

Step 2: Set up a Google Analytics account

Once your Gmail account is set up, you’ll be ready to set up your Google Analytics account! The first step is to go to the login page: There are several different flavors of analytics that Google offers on page; we’re only interested in the one labeled “Analytics.” You’ll see it as the first option when you click the “Sign In” button. Once you click on it, enter in the login credentials to your newly created Gmail account and you’ll land on the account setup page.


On this page, you’ll find three primary fields to complete: Account Name, Website Name, and Website URL.

Account Name is the label for your entire account. You can set up Google Analytics for multiple websites under just one account, and the name you choose here will be the name for that umbrella account.

Within each account, you’ll have several properties. If you have multiple websites you want to track, each website would have its own property within your account. For this walkthrough, though, let’s assume you only have one website and therefore only need one property. This is where the Website Name field comes in. You can name this whatever you’d like, such as “” or “Your Site Name” or just about anything else. My suggestion is to use a name that’s similar to your website so it’s easy to associate.

(Note: You may want to familiarize yourself with the hierarchy of Google Analytics. You can do that by checking out Google’s documentation.)

Finally, we have the Website URL field. Here, you’ll list the actual URL of your website. Make sure you specify whether your website is an “http” or “https” site, as entering the wrong one could cause tracking errors. The same thing goes for www. If set up correctly, your site should automatically redirect to either a “www” version ( or a non-www version ( Make sure you enter the correct one in this field to ensure accurate tracking.

Beyond these fields, you’ll see a bunch of sections with check boxes. For the sake of simplicity, I suggest leaving those checked in, as recommended. When you’re done, hit the “Get Tracking ID” button—we’re almost finished!

Step 3: Add your tracking code

Now that you have your account set up, it’s time to add the tracking code to your site.


You may be asking, “What does this code do?” This code is how Google Analytics knows your site is…well, your site. Every time a page on your site loads it will trigger this code, which then sends information back to Google Analytics to report back to you! That’s an oversimplification, but it covers the gist of it.

So, how do we make sure this is implemented correctly? It needs to be added to the <head> of every single page on your website. Not sure what the <head> is? That’s OK! There are a number of ways to easily implement the tracking without touching a line of code on your site.

If you’re using a WordPress site, one of the easiest ways to do this is by adding a plugin. One of the most popular is MonsterInsights. It’s free, easy-to-use, and doesn’t require technical skills beyond knowing how to copy and paste. Simply install the plugin, follow the directions, and you should be golden!

If you’re not using WordPress or you’re not comfortable with adding plugins, don’t worry: Many hosting providers—such as GoDaddy, BlueHost, and Host Gator—offer easy ways to add this for you so you don’t have to do it yourself. If your hosting provider doesn’t offer that service, then a developer could help you with it. And if you don’t have access to a developer, then email me and I’ll be happy to help (it usually only takes a minute or two, so I don’t mind).

All done!

And that’s it! That’s all there is to installing Google Analytics. Now that you have it in place, you’ll have a wealth of actionable traffic data at your fingertips.

Of course, setting it up is just the tiny tip of the iceberg. There is a ton of other simple tricks and fixes you can do to get even more detailed information about your site, and we’ll be covering that in a future post. In the meantime, have fun!

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I have an enterprise client that retains me as a consultant. In a nutshell, I help them anytime they have an SEO question.

Before they hired me, this client hired a vendor to help them with some technical implementations. As part of their service agreement, the vendor offered an SEO audit. My client asked me to review this audit for them. They weren’t hiring this company for their SEO services, but they still wanted a trained eye to see if the audit held any water.

The audit was fairly sound, but it suggested tactics of little use. There were some good suggestions within the audit for sure, but it was entry-level stuff that would barely move the needle.

This was all coming from an enterprise-level business, one that serves other enterprise-level businesses. This is a company with the strength to offer innovative, advanced strategies, and it came out of the gate offering basically the kind of thing that comes from a free SEO audit tool found on about a bazillion different websites these days.

This got me thinking. There are plenty of these SEO audit tools out there, right? And some even provide a clear view of a site’s technical strengths and weaknesses. Best of all, most of them are free to use (within reason).

My client could have just as easily used a reputable SEO audit tool and received the same (if not better) information they got from this big agency. In fact, if they used one of these free tools, they would have more information about their site’s technical issues and a better understanding of technical SEO as a whole so that when we spoke next, there would be less of a learning curve when discussing new strategies.

Free SEO Audit Tools: Your New Teaching Assistant

Free audit tools have been around for quite some time. I know because I used some of these tools to train myself on the basics of technical SEO. While there’s a wealth of primers, guides and tools out there, I’ve always found that free tools offer a dirtier, more hands-on approach that takes technical SEO and applies it to a site that lives and breathes on the screen in front of me.

In fact, a lot of the free SEO audit tools served as the gateway drugs that pulled me out of the comfortable, accessible realm of title tag and H1 optimization and pulled me into the grasp of bigger, sexier concepts like crawl budgets, indexation and so on.

If they helped me like this, why couldn’t they help others?

Think of it this way: Clients pay a professional to consult and guide them through the weird, weedy jungle of changing search algorithms and ranking factors. Clients pay them to be not just an expert, but a guide who can help them learn more about this evolving industry. Basically, they’re looking for an expert to teach them more about SEO, so they have a stronger understanding of how it can benefit their business.

SEO audit tools can go a long way in explaining what, to some people, could seem like technical mysticism. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that these tools take what can be confusing practices and applies them to an actual website makes for an extremely practical, accessible learning tool for those who need a casual understanding of technical SEO.

In short: When clients can speak more intelligently about the SEO strategies professionals develop for them, everyone wins.

Things to Keep in Mind

Let’s share a few more words before jumping into some free SEO audit tools to share with clients.

  1. First, it should go without saying that if you are going to open a client’s eyes to the world of free SEO tools, you should first make sure they’re totally onboard with the idea. While most people will likely be excited to learn more about the techniques used to improve their online business, it’s also likely that the whole reason they hired you is so they don’t need to worry much about it. So always feel out the client and make sure you’re on the same page.
  2.  Not all free tools are created equal. The same could actually be said for paid tools, too. The point is to make sure you only recommend a reputable tool that provides only accurate information. This should go without saying, but your recommendations are a representation of your skills, and recommending a bad tool won’t work in your favor.
  3.  Using these free tools is by no means a replacement for a thorough SEO audit. I start literally all my engagements with a comprehensive audit customized to the design and needs of each specific site, and, frankly, you should too. That said, once you’ve done that and have provided the findings to your client, these tools are a nice way to supplement your work — not replace it.

The Right Free SEO Audit Tools for the Job

Below is a list of some of my favorite free tools available on the web. I’ve made this list based on some pretty basic criteria:

  1. They’re totally free (at most, they may require an email address).
  2. They present the information in fairly straightforward terms with a basic explanation and actionable advice.
  3. They’re pretty to look at.

OK, let’s dig in.

Varvy SEO Tool

The Varvy SEO Tool is arguably one of the most comprehensive free audit options out there and it’s a great learning tool for just about anyone, really. Not only does it break potential issues into clean, summarized little pieces, it also provides quick links that expand on each issue, providing a truly useful SEO learning experience. Plus, there’s something for everyone on here, even a seasoned developer with exposure to technical SEO may find something new to learn on here.

SEO Site Check-Up

The SEO Site Check-Up Tool has been one of my favorites ever since I got into this business. It’s great because it not only gives a wealth of data — a decent amount more than your average audit tool, in fact — but it delivers it in a very granular way. This approach makes it easy to focus on (and learn) more specific facets of technical SEO, such as page speed. One of the nicest features, though, is that it provides a “How to Fix” button which gives a quick explanation on how to fix the problem and where you can find more information if needed.

Website Grader

HubSpot’s Website Grader is arguably one of the prettiest, most user-friendly audit tools on the web. Not only is the tool quite thorough in the points it addresses, it’s also beautiful to look at and easy to process. Like any tool worth its weight in bytes, Website Grader not only gives a quick breakdown of the issue but also provides a link to posts and tutorials that will help you remedy the problem. One of the nicer features that puts this tool over the top is the prioritized “What Should I Do Next” list offered at the end of each report.

Honorable Mentions

While the three tools listed above are fantastic, there are plenty of other tools out there that work great as learning resources. The ones listed above strike a great balance between providing useful info and being newbie-friendly, but there are plenty of other tools out there worth considering. Though they tend to be geared towards those with a more technical background, tools like Pingdom and GTMetrix are great for finding and explaining some of the more technical SEO issues.

There’s No Replacement for a Good SEO

While these sites make awesome learning tools for those new to the SEO game, there’s still no substitute for hands-on experience. SEO is a pretty tricky animal and getting it just right takes time and expertise. But with the tools above, you can help demystify it a little bit for clients or anyone else new to the world of search.

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The Trick to Writing for SEO

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