SEO Copywriting: 17 Powerful Secrets (Updated for 2017)

Knowing SEO is great.

Knowing copywriting is great.

But when you can do BOTH?

That’s when you can slap an “S” on your chest…

…because you’ll be unstoppable.

And today I have something that will make you feel like you have SEO superpowers:

17 insanely actionable SEO copywriting tips that you can use right now.

Free Bonus: Click here to get access to a free PDF checklist that shows you how to execute all 17 of the techniques from this post (the checklist also includes 2 bonus strategies).

Note: This post was first published in 2015. I recently gave it a much needed update. I also added a bunch of new tips that I recently learned. Enjoy!

Look:

Most people think SEO copywriting is all about putting words after words.

But in my experience, the STRUCTURE of your content is just as important as the writing itself.

And what better place to find proven content structures than Udemy?

udemy homepage

(In case you’re not familiar with Udemy, it’s a MASSIVE directory of online courses)

Here’s how you can use Udemy to make your next piece of content 2-3x more compelling:

First, head over to Udemy and enter a keyword.

For example, let’s say you were writing a blog post about photography. You’d search for “photography”:

udemy search

Udemy will show you all of their popular photography courses:

search results

Next, pick a course with a lot of reviews.

Here’s one:

course

Once you pick a course, take a look at how many people have already enrolled in it.

As you can see, over 70,000 people have enrolled in this photography course:

number of students

Do you see how huge this is?

You’re looking at content that 70,000 people have shelled out cold hard cash to get access to.

That means you don’t need to rely on your Spidey sense. You KNOW there’s going to be demand for your content.

Thousands of people have already voted…with their wallets.

Now:

Once you’ve found a popular course, scroll down to the “Curriculum” section.

That’s where you’ll find the proven structure you can use for your next blog post, video or infographic:

course outline

Obviously, you don’t want to rip off the instructor’s course.

But you can use bits and pieces of the curriculum for your outline:

Now that you have your outline, it’s almost time to put pen to paper.

Before you do, make sure to read the next technique on my list…

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When someone lands on your site from a search engine, two things can happen:

They either leave right away…

…or they stick around.

And when people stick on your page like superglue, Google thinks:

“This is a great page. Let’s give it a rankings boost.”

But when people leave your site like a sinking ship…

That’s when Google drops you like a stone.

The bottom line?

If you want higher rankings, you NEED to keep people on your site.

How? Bucket Brigades.

Bucket Brigades are words and phrases that keep people on your page.

For example:

You may notice that I tend to use short sentences that end in a colon, like this:

super short sentence

That’s a Bucket Brigade.

But what are Bucket Brigades, exactly?

Bucket Brigades are an old school copywriting tactic that were originally designed to keep people reading sales letters.

I’ve adapted Bucket Brigades for SEO content and the results are, well, crazy.

In fact, here’s Backlinko’s average time on page:

time on page

Yes, that’s 4 minutes.

A good chunk of that above-average Time on Page is due to the fact that I sprinkle Bucket Brigades into every post.

Now it’s time for me to show you how to use Bucket Brigades to boost your Time on Page:

First, find a place in your content where someone’s likely to hit their browser’s “back” button…

…and add a Bucket Brigade.

Start with your intro.

Here’s an example where I used two Bucket Brigades in my intro:

bucket brigade examples

(By the way, the Time On Page for that post is over 5 minutes):

average time on page for an article

You also want to use Bucket Brigades in the middle of your content.

Here’s an example from one of my recent guides to keyword research:

another bucket brigade example

Bottom line: whenever you have a section where someone may get bored and leave, add a Bucket Brigade.

You can make up your own Bucket Brigades…or you can use these tried-and-true Bucket Brigade classics:

  • Here’s the deal:
  • Now:
  • What’s the bottom line?
  • You might be wondering:
  • This is crazy:
  • It gets better/worse:
  • But here’s the kicker:
  • Want to know the best part?

And — bada bing, bada boom — you’re set.

Once you’ve added a few Bucket Brigades, move onto technique #3…

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Today’s super-smart Google doesn’t care how many times you cram a keyword into your article.

Instead, it pays close attention to Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords.

(LSI keywords are a fancy way of saying: “synonyms and closely related words”)

And these LSI keywords help Google understand what your page is all about.

For example, let’s say you write an article optimized around the keyword “cars”.

How does Google know whether your page is about:

  • Cars the vehicle
  • Cars the movie
  • The 1970s rock band (with awful hair)
  • The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs)

The answer? LSI keywords.

For example, when Google sees a page with LSI keywords like this…

LSI Keywords

…they know the page is about the cars you drive.

But when Google sees a page like this…

wikipedia entry LSI keywords

…they know it’s about Cars the movie.

So how can you add more LSI keywords into your content?

I’ll explain with an example:

Let’s say your keyword was “playstation RPGs”.

First, search for that keyword in Google:

google search

Then, scan the page for bold words and phrases that aren’t the keyword you just typed in.

Here are some examples from Google’s first page:

lsi keywords in google search results

See how Google bolds words like “Final Fantasy VIII” and “PS1”?

This means that Google considers those terms VERY similar to the keyword you just searched for.

(In other words, LSI keywords)

Finally, sprinkle these bold terms into your content…

…and you’re ready for secret #4.

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Bold promise? Definitely.

But stay with me.

What’s the big secret I’m talking about?

Create your own keywords.

I’ll explain.

If you search for your brand in Google, you probably rank #1.

backlinko search results

You may not have thought about it, but your brand is a keyword

…a keyword that you automatically rank #1 for.

But why stop there?

You can generate boatloads of extra organic traffic when you also brand your techniques and strategies.

For example:

You’ve probably heard about The Skyscraper Technique, my 3-step formula for getting more organic traffic to your site.

skyscraper technique blog post

Because I branded my strategy “The Skyscraper Technique”, I now have a pipeline of extra visitors coming to my site everyday.

In fact, according to Google Search Console, the keyword “Skyscraper Technique” gets 1,093 searches per month:

google search console impressions

Because I rank #1 for that keyword (and appear in the answer box) , I get the lion’s share of those 1,103 clicks:

google search results 2

Bottom line?

Whenever you develop a unique strategy, tactic, or technique…

make sure you slap a branded name on it.

When you do, you’ll get a bunch of extra organic search traffic.

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A while back I published a post called, “Why Google Hates Your Site (Hint: It Has Something to Do With TrustRank)“:

google trust article

With this post I decided to go after a keyword that my competitors wouldn’t bother targeting…

…even though it gets a decent amount of searches.

What was the keyword?

“Google hates my site”

Believe it or not, I didn’t pull this keyword out of thin air.

I chose this keyword because I saw A LOT of people in SEO forums saying things like this:

And if people post something in a forum, you can bet your butt that they also search for the same thing in Google.

So I decided to use a variation of that keyword in my post:

google trust article

Today, besides ranking #1 for my target keyword (“Google TrustRank”)…

ranking 1 in google

…when someone searches for “Google hates my site” (and other variations of that search), I show up in the top spot:

number 1 ranking

How can you use this technique to get more traffic?

First, optimize your page just like you normally would (If you need a hand, check out these 14 advanced on-page SEO strategies).

But before you hit “publish”, scan forums for words and phrases people tend to use around your topic.

For example, let’s say your primary keyword was “organic vegetable gardening”.

You’d search in Google with inurl:forum + “organic vegetable gardening”:

forum search

This will bring up a bunch forum threads around that topic:

google search results 3

Skim the first few threads that you find.

When you see a phrase that seems like a good fit…

forum post

…search that phrase Google:

number of results in a google search

If a lot of results pop up (like with this example), add those words and phrases to your post.

wordpress post

And you’re good to go.

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Here’s the deal:

Sure, social sharing buttons help you get more shares…

…but in most cases, they’re not enough.

Instead, I recommend tapping into a copywriter’s best friend:

A call to action.

Let me explain.

A few months back I published “17 Insanely Actionable List Building Strategies That Will Generate More Subscribers Today“:

backlinko post

To maximize the amount of shares this post got, I included a “click to tweet” button underneath each item on the list:

To date, my post has over 2900 tweets…

tweet count

…and a good chunk of those 2900 tweets came from my “click to tweet” buttons:

tweet

Here’s how you can do the same thing:

First, find a super actionable tip or strategy from your post.

Next, head over to ClickToTweet.com. Click on “basic link”:

click to tweet

Turn your actionable tip into a tweet:

tweet example

Then, click on “Generate new link”.

click to tweet example

Grab the link…

twitter link

…and pop the link into your post.

You can use buttons like I did. But plain-text links also work great:

click to tweet link

Whether you use a button or a plain link, definitely add at least one “click to tweet” call to action in your next post.

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Here’s something we can both agree on:

The higher you rank, the more clicks you get, right?

Well…not really.

It turns out that you can get more search engine traffic…WITHOUT higher rankings.

Hit “play” to learn how this powerful strategy works:

Once you’ve finished watching the video, it’s time for SEO copywriting secret #8.

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With giants like Amazon dominating the first page, it’s not easy for an ecommerce site to practice effective SEO.

Despite that fact, I still see small ecommerce sites beat the odds.

Their secret?

They target long tail keywords that most of their competitors don’t know about.

Here’s how they do it (and how you can do the same thing):

First, search for a product that you sell on Amazon.

For example, let’s say you run an ecommerce site that sells organic dog food.

You’d search for “organic dog food” in Amazon:

amazon search

But don’t hit enter!

If you wait a second, Amazon will show you long tail keywords related to that keyword (just like Google Suggest):

amazon suggest

Grab one of those keywords and pop it into Google.

google search for a long tail keyword

Check to see if the first page for the long tail keyword is less competitive than the one you’re currently targeting.

Usually, it will be:

(As you can see above, the Page Authority of the top 10 results for “Organic Dog Food” is X% higher than the similar, long tail keyword)

And because Amazon Suggest keywords are so laser-targeted, they tend to convert GREAT.

Finally, sprinkle those keywords into your product and category page copy (and in your title and description tags):

As soon as you’ve added long tail copy to your product and category pages, move onto the next tip on the list.

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If you want more traffic from long tail keywords, the solution is simple:

Add “modifiers” to your title tag.

What are “modifiers”?

Modifiers are words that you add to your title tag…

…words that get your site in front of more long tail searchers.

Here’s little case study of this strategy in action:

A while back I published a guide called “Link Building: The Definitive Guide“.

And the title tag I used was simply the name of the guide:

old title tag

At the time, I thought to myself:

“This title tag is short and sweet. It also includes my target keyword. This is a great title tag.”

But I was wrong.

I quickly realized that I could get MORE traffic to that page if I added a modifier.

So I added the keyword “SEO” to my title tag:

new title with title modifier

Thanks to that simple tweak, my page ranks for keywords that I wouldn’t have NEVER thought to optimize around…

…like “SEO link building” (590 searches/month):

And “link building SEO” (90 searches/month):

According to GWT, those two keywords bring in 139 targeted visitors per month.

All from (literally) 28 seconds of work.

How can you do the same thing?

First, find a page on your site that has a short title tag (between 25-40 characters).

Then add one or two of these modifiers from this list:

  • “How to…”
  • The current year
  • Review
  • Best
  • Fast
  • Checklist
  • Guide
  • Tips
  • Easy
  • Simple

You won’t be able to predict exactly what keywords these modifiers bring in…

…but you’ll get more search engine traffic than you would without them.

And that’s what really matters ๐Ÿ™‚

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As you saw earlier, Backlinko rocks an above-average Avg. Time on Page:

time on page

I already told you that Bucket Brigades were a big part of the story.

And now I want to show you another technique that makes Google searchers stick to my site like superglue:

My battle-tested blog post introduction templates.

And today I’m going to share one of my favorites:

The APP Method.

Here’s what it looks like:

As you can see in the graphic, “APP” stands for: Agree, Promise, and Preview.

Let’s break each element down:

First, we have Agree.

Start your introduction off with an idea or concept that a Google searcher will agree with.

This shows them that you understand their problem.

Here’s an example from my post on creating a Social Squeeze page.

blog post intro

That’s something people searching for my target keyword (“squeeze page”) know to be true.

Now that you’ve got them nodding their head in agreement, it’s time for the Promise.

The Promise is where you give them a peek into a better world.

Here’s an example from my Social Squeeze Page Post:

second part of article introduction

Finally, hit them with The Preview.

Don’t beat around the bush. Just tell them exactly what you have in store for them.

preview

Once you put the finishing touches on The Preview, you’re set.

You now have an intro that keeps Google readers on your site…

…and a page that Google will want to show to more people.

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Remember:

Like I mentioned in item #3 from this list — the more LSI keywords you embed into your content — the better Google understands what your page is about.

Now I’ve got a mini case study that will show you how to reveal even more LSI keywords that you can use.

A while back I wanted to add a few LSI keywords to my post, “On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page“.

backlinkos post on on page seo

First, I searched for my target keyword (“on page SEO”) in Google:

searching for a keyword in google

Next, I scrolled to the bottom of the first page. This is where Google shows you “searches related to…” keywords:

searches related to

These are PERFECT LSI keywords to include in your content.

I grabbed any LSI keywords that made sense and popped them into my content.

For example:

LSI keyword used

And I was good to go.

This technique has a bonus benefit:

“Searches related to…” keywords help you rank for long tail keywords that may not show up in the Google Keyword Planner:

That means more traffic for you.

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It’s funny:

A lot of content marketers hate on “clickbait” sites like BuzzFeed.

Me? I think they’re geniuses.

Their meteoric growth speaks for itself…

alexa rating

Seriously. Buzzfeed.com went from zero to a top 50 site in the US…practically overnight.

Besides, it’s hard NOT to love headlines like these:

viralnova headlines

And they’ve proven that their headline formulas grab people by the eyeballs.

For example, item #9 from this post may have caught your eye:

subheading

The idea for that subheader came from a post on BuzzFeed:

buzzfeed headline

And you can do the same thing.

Just check out some recent posts on BuzzFeed and other clickbait sites…

buzzfeed headline examples

…and adapt them for your blog post titles and subheadings.

Obviously, some of their headlines are over the top.

So I’ve put together a few Buzzfeed-style headline templates that grab attention…without going overboard:

  • 25 ___ That Will Change The Way You ___
  • I Tried ___. And Even I Was Surprised About What Happened Next
  • This ___ Makes ___ 10x Better
  • Here Are 11 ___ That ____. And They’re Backed By Science
  • Use These 20 Simple Hacks For More ____. #5 Is Awesome
  • When You Learn About ___ You’ll Never ____ Again

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Do you use Reddit for keyword research?

If not, you should .

After all, Reddit users discuss every topic on planet Earth…from toasters to tripods.

There’s only one problem with this approach:

Combing through Reddit is a huge pain!

Enter: Keyworddit.

Keyworddit does the combing for you.

Just choose a subreddit…

reddit keyword tool

…and you’ll see terms that people use when they discuss your topic.

reddit keyword list

Very cool.

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Everyone and their mom knows that subheadings make online content easier to read.

To illustrate how much subheadings help, here’s the example I showed earlier in this post:

text readability

If you’re human, you prefer the post on the left.

Now:

Subheadings are just ONE way to break up your content.

Magazines use dozens of different techniques to break up walls of text.

Here’s an example from an Inc. magazine I have lying around my apartment:

inc magazine

And when you use the 3 magazine-inspired techniques I’m about to show you, you’ll stop “serial skimmers” in their tracks.

Technique #1: Quote Boxes

Whenever you quote someone, put that quote in a box. Here’s an example from Backlinko:

Technique #2: Sidebar Callouts

This is another magazine staple.

Whenever you have content that complements your post, put it in a callout box.

I use these quite a bit at Backlinko.

callout box example

Technique #3: Section Banners

This technique a bit more involved…

…but it’ll make your content look รผber professional.

Just add a custom banner underneath each subheading, like this:

subheader banner

See how nice that looks?

You can get these custom banners made at a freelance site like Upwork.

Or, if you’re in the mood for DIY, Canva works well too.

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Can short URLs really help your site rank higher in Google?

Our search engine ranking factors study found a significant correlation between short URLs and higher Google rankings.

url length and rankings correlation

The question is: why do shorter URLs tend to perform better in Google?

First, short URLs make Google’s job easier.

As you know, Google uses your URL to understand what your page is about.

That’s why a URL like:

www.website.com/your-keyword

Is better than:

www.website.com/12/15/2017/your-keyword-and-why-it-is-important

Second, short URLs=better CTR

Here’s what the data says on this:

This makes sense if you think about it…

URLs are a “high level” summary of your page’s topic.

But if your URL is a mile long, Google searchers are going skip right over it and click on another result.

In fact, Google hates long URLs so much that they now automatically re-write long URLS as short URLs in the search results:

That’s why I recommend simple-yet-descriptive URLs like this:

short URL

(Quick note: Are your URLs already long? I don’t recommend going back and changing them. Just apply this rule to future pages that you add to your site).

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Last year Dave Attard had a problem…

He spent a ton of time creating this impressive web design checklist:

web design checklist

This guide was so good it even started to rank in the top 3 for his target keyword.

Unfortunately, this top-3 ranking didn’t generate as much organic traffic David was expecting.

That’s when he realized that he could boost his traffic with a better title tag.

His original title tag was good…but had lots of room for improvement:

He improved his title in two ways:

First, he added a number.

Copywriters have known for years that numbers=clicks.

That’s why David added a number to his title.

David also added some emotion to his title. Studies show that emotionally compelling headlines get more clicks.

That’s why David added the word “Amazing” to his title:

The result?

A 71.6% boost in organic traffic.

traffic increase organic

Pretty cool, right?

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Want a list of long tail keywords that your competition doesn’t know about?

Look no further than Bloomberry.

Here’s how it works:

Enter a seed keyword into the tool:

bloomberry

Then Bloomberry will scrape the internet to find questions and topics around your keyword:

Because most of the questions and topics don’t contain your seed keyword, your competition doesn’t know about them.

Gold. Mine.

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Now It's Your Turn
You’ve read about the 17 SEO copywriting techniques. Now it’s time to implement them.

The first step?

Leave a comment to let me know which technique you’re going to try first.

Ready to implement Bucket Brigades?

Or maybe you want to try the APP Formula.

Either way, leave a quick comment below right now.

But before that, click the image below and enter your email to get access to my FREE SEO copywriting checklist PDF.

The checklist has all 16 of the copywriting strategies hereโ€ฆand 2 others that I didnโ€™t have room to include in this post.

Click the image below to download the PDF now.

SEO Copywriting PDF

    1. Thanks Angelo.

      Not sure I can bring something fresh every week, but I try to publish content as often as I can ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. @Angelo – I have been reading Brian’s posts for a long time now and trust me or not I love to re-read most of his content because everytime I do that I take away something new.

          I stumbled upon this website when I was one of those “publish 10 posts a day and wait for traffic” kind of bloggers. Brian’s techniques have made me become a much better blogger and a have a relaxed schedule. Good luck.

          1. I agree with you Saha. Brian is just a crazily resourceful guy with an ocean of actionable tips. I ‘eat’ and use his content EVERY DAY.

            Brian, I run a niche site about starting a blog. Iโ€™m going to use LSI first. I believe it will help me get more long tail traffic.

          2. Thanks Muddamed. Sounds great. Yup, LSI keywords can definitely help you get more long tail traffic.

          3. itsumo arigatou Brian-san… you are my sensei ๐Ÿ™‚
            Btw, his name is Muhammed, not Muddamed :p

  1. I have to bookmark this for later, just had a quick glance but there are several amazing nuggets in here. I’m always happy to read tips outside of traditional SEO and you put a LOT of creativity in this article. Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, Philip. I’d like to see what you think after you have a chance to dig through the post.

      1. My favourite is the HARO tip and I think it’s very helpful.

        I also love the Udemy one, because I recently turned an article into a course but didn’t think of doing it the other way round.

        Fantastic stuff as always ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Great Article Brian. I will be using all those techniques you have mentioned and see which works best for me. Some great ideas you have shared with us once again. Thanks Brain!

    1. You’re welcome, Sue. Yup, Bucket Brigades have served me well ๐Ÿ™‚
      And thanks for sharing. You rock!

  3. This is literally DAYS of reading. Thanks for putting this all together & sending me the link. Incredible resource (and love LOVE the Udemy idea.)

  4. Great post, Brian! I especially enjoyed #11, the APP method. I think that’s a great way to write an introduction to a blog post. The only problem with posts like this is that I’ll spend hours reading it and trying to implement all the suggestions on my site.

    The LSI suggestions are great. I’ve been doing that for some time now thanks to a suggestion I read at Neil Patel’s blog.

    I can’t wait to see what you’re going to blog about next!

    1. Thanks Randy.

      I know the feeling. I get overwhelmed too. That’s why I asked everyone to pick 1 or 2 to start with. That way people can take action and come back to the rest later ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Yes, how long did it take to put it down? That would be interesting to know. Impressive amount of quality work here. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Cool. I guess its just an image you upload? Perhaps this little button can even be made on canva too? Would you mind sharing the dimension of the button?

        1. Yes, exactly. Nothing complicated. Just a linked image. You could definitely make it in Canva. The images in this post are 641×105.

  5. I run a site about VPNs. Iโ€™m going to use Bucket Brigades first. It can be done quickly with existing copy. Readable and well structured content counts as Brian shows his readers with every piece he crafts. The values for average time on page speak for themselves.

    1. Great idea, Harald. That’s true: Bucket Brigades are super easy to implement on older content. Just add a few and you’re good to go.

  6. Brian, By the time I got to the bottom of your post I saw Zero comments and only 2 Tweets. I thought “This is not possible with such a great post”. So I hit the refresh button and saw 11 comments, 19 Tweets, 5 likes… All in the time it took me to get to the bottom of your article ๐Ÿ™‚ Congrats on a great post!

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