The Alfred Hitchcock Guide to SEO Copywriting

Why is my competitor showing above me in Google search results? How can I use my website’s useful content to find new potential customers? What acronym would I use for the Sasquatch Education Organization?

SEO is the answer to these questions and more.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) starts as a mystery for many companies, but it doesn’t have to. Understanding SEO and SEO copywriting means anticipating how search engines (like Google and Bing) rate and rank your content. Wrap your mind around that and you can write content that will land you at the top of search results and in front of thousands of potential customers.

Alfred Hitchcock


Alfred Hitchcock understood the principles of great SEO copywriting without ever logging onto a computer. The Master of Suspense delivered half a century of innovative filmmaking because he understood not just what his audience wanted, but what his team needed in order to serve that audience.

And how does this translate to SEO copywriting? An exercise in analogy can help us here.

You are Alfred Hitchcock.

Google and Bing are your big shot actors.

When your actors ask the traditional “What’s my motivation?” you can tell Google and Bing what Hitchcock told his actors.

“It’s in the script.”

Google and Bing’s motivation to include your articles and blog posts in the top search results can be found in every element of your content (your script).

What are those important elements? A look at the script of Hitchcock’s Psycho can explain it pretty well.


The Title = The H1 Tag


It’s in big letters right on the first page of your script for a reason: it’s the identity of the movie.
The identity of your content is contained in one of the largest ranking factors for your article: the H1 tag.

Your H1 tag is the title at the top of the article. It tells readers and search engines in a short 4-12 words what the article is all about. If it’s not clear in the H1 tag what your audience will get out of the article, Google and Bing won’t know what to do with your content.

So while Psycho may have worked for the 1960 blockbuster, you’ll need to be a little more descriptive with your H1 tag. Include your top keyword and craft an attention grabbing title.

Script Action = The Code

Woman stabbed eight times in the shower.

Don’t remember than line from Psycho?

Good, because it’s not dialogue, it’s action. It’s all the words in the script the audience never hears. But they see the results of the action. And it’s as important as the dialogue itself.

For SEO copywriting, the “script action” is all of the code on the page the audience will never read.

H2 headers are an important part of this action. Just like your H1, H2s tell search engines what the most important topics of an article are. You should be using several H2 headers throughout your writing to highlight the sub-categories of your article. (I’m using them right now, and I feel fabulous!).

Image alt text is another opportunity for SEO in your coding. Alt text is the description when an image can’t load. Search engines crawl this code, so including some keywords in your image descriptions can result in extra love in the search rankings.

The Dialogue = The Body Copy

“I think I must have one of those faces you can’t help believing.”

There are some great lines in Psycho. While script action sets the scene, the dialogue really carries the movie. With each spoken line, you learn a little more about the story.

Just like a movie’s dialogue, every word you write for your audience tells the story of your content. This is called the body copy, and Google/Bing analyze it to determine which audiences (or search engine users) should hear your story.

So if you’re selling toaster ovens, you should repeat the words “high-quality toaster ovens” in the copy about a thousand times, right? No. Please don’t.

Bad writing will lose every time.

Google and Bing are smart. When you show them a script, they want the characters to be fully-developed and believable. Including your top keywords is still essential, but you also need to be using variations of those keywords, and all of them need to be surrounded by relevant content.

The best part about this is if you’re writing engaging and informative content, you’re most likely already using your top keywords and close variations in a natural way. Good job!

From Script to (Computer) Screen

If you write a great script, you will be serving your audience as well as the search engines.

An exciting title will bring in your audience. Masterful action will draw attention to the right details. Great dialogue tells your story.

A quick confession: When actors pressed Hitchcock for further motivation, his last and definitive answer was, “Your salary.” So there’s that.

How is your script coming along?

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  1. Good article, thanks!
    Though I’d make one correction: The title of the script is what should go into the title tag of the page. That is even more important than the h1 part as the title is usually also displayed within the SERP snippet.

    1. Thanks Frank that is an excellent point. The title tag is easily the most important SEO factor of any webpage. The beauty of it is that when you enter the title of your article into most CMSs, it becomes both the title tag AND the h1 tag, so that’s why I ignored it for this analogy.
      But you’re absolutely right. It’s amazing what a well-optimized title tag will do. A keyword-rich title tag brings it up in in the SERPs, and a catchy title tag will get you clicks in those SERPs. Dig it. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  2. Hi, Jack! How did you know I’ve been hunting for the acronym for the Sasquatch Education Organization? Whew, I’m so relieved… 😉
    Seriously though, fantastic post. Hitchcock was the master of building suspense and tantalizing viewers, which are both qualities that a seasoned SEO professional should understand. I detest reading articles that emphasize keyword repetition over quality — that “trick” will no longer get favorable results. SEO has come a long way, and we all have to adapt if we want to keep up (much like a good filmmaker, like Alfred, has to do)!

    1. There’s nothing worse for the user experience than a page covered in overused keywords. Ugh.
      And yeah as soon as I started reading about Hitchcock months ago, I knew there would be ample opportunities to apply his genius to internet marketing and copywriting.
      In checking up on this article, I also found a great Copyblogger article about Hitchcock’s McGuffin.
      And yes, my Northwest roots have led to a healthy Sasquatch obsession.

  3. An excellent article and while I feared at the start that you might drag this metaphor too far you kept it light and fresh throughout and the analogy really worked.
    As someone else has already said: “A+”

  4. An entertaining yet really informative post. Looking outside the internet world to the genius that was Hitchcock made for a really different angle and was all the better for it.
    Thanks too for pointing out the article on McGuffin which I have to say was a new one to me – now better informed and looking out for the McGuffin opportunities in my writing!

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