Copywriting for SEO is not as easy as you might think – sure, there are plenty of rules about what makes a good keyword or key phrase, and where to include it on the page, but a good Copywriter goes much further than that.
Good website copy not only has the keywords in the right places; it also has ways for the reader to engage with the site, by commenting, clicking to view a video or listen to some audio, clicking a link to another page, or filling in a contact or order form.
The last of these outcomes is the most obvious way of making money from your site, but any interaction can be good – if your visitor clicks an ad, you still make money, and if they register for your mailing list or follow you on a social network, you’ve got a way of marketing to them in future.
So how do you make sure your 400 words of content achieve all of the above? It’s not totally intuitive, but it’s also not too hard to learn – so here are the basics.
1. The Web Does Not Begin and End with Google
Read that heading again. And again. Read it until you’re no longer just rejecting it out of hand. Once you’re giving it fair consideration, consider this: the web does not begin and end with search.
For a long time now, Google, Yahoo! and Bing have dominated people’s online marketing efforts, and it’s led us to an internet filled with gateway pages, article databases, keyword-crammed blog posts and so on.
Take a minute to remember why you’ve got a website in the first place, and hopefully you’ll realise that pages written solely for the search engines are unlikely to make you any money – you need content that grips your readers and encourages them to take whatever action it is that makes you some profit.
Many SEO copywriters are adept at producing this kind of copy, combining compelling wording for the human readers with key words and phrases that help the page to rank highly in the search results – but you need to find a writer who can do both at once, or you’re going to have a weak link in your chain.
2. A Web Page Should Never Stand Alone
The internet is a four-dimensional structure – each page can be read from start to finish, but you never know which order the pages will be read in, or whether your visitors might click away to another page, or a video, or a totally different website.
It’s reasonable to work with this principle, rather than against it – provide them with in-text links to other useful and related pages on your site, or to other websites that open in a new tab or window, and always end with a link to something, so your readers don’t come up against a virtual brick wall when they’ve finished reading your article.
However, don’t be tempted to cram adverts into what look like in-text links, as there’s zero benefit to your readers when they point to a link, only for it to pop up a little box with a display ad inside it, and many visitors will simply close your website if this happens once too often.
Good copywriters can instead incorporate your sales pitch or ‘call to action’ seamlessly into the text of the page, smoothing the transition from editorial content to marketing content, and helping to ease your readers towards converting into customers at the same time.
3. There’s No Good Way to Cut Corners
Listen up, and listen good – if you didn’t write your page from scratch (or have a professional Copywriter write it from scratch), it’s not as good as it might otherwise be.
The web is full of scare stories about automated article spinning, which uses a thesaurus to substitute certain ‘synonyms’ into copied and pasted text, supposedly to make it unique in the eyes of the search engines.
Well, you might end up with unique copy, but it’s not going to be top-quality – in one example, I once saw a parenting website where every mention of the ‘love’ parents had for their children had been substituted with a certain other four-letter word beginning with ‘f’.
Their thesaurus had clearly gone with the definition of ‘making love’ rather than simply the word ‘love’ itself, rendering their entire website’s content utterly worthless.
Article spinning rightfully has a bad reputation, but it doesn’t have to be like that – if you simply hire a professional to ‘spin’ existing content into something new, they can give you something that’s not only unique in its wording, but which draws in data from other sources too, to make a page that’s genuinely got something to add to what’s already out there.
4. You Can’t Have No Text
Yes, that’s a deliberate double negative, and it’s here to make an important point that might sound opposed to much of what I’ve already said above – that is, you can’t get away with having little to no text on your website.
Search engines still don’t understand non-text content very well, and if you want a sound clip, video or picture to have a ranking all of its own, you often have to add quite lengthy bits of hidden HTML code to tell the search engines what that content is about, and how you’d like it to be listed in their results.
In contrast, stick 400 words of plain text content on a page, and you’ve added a full 400 words of search-visible content to that page. You just need to make sure it’s 400 words that are worth reading.
The definition of a good copywriter is one who researches 400 words’ worth of background information before beginning to write – a bad copywriter will take the 150 words of useful information they’ve already got, and reach the word count purely by padding it out.
5. The F Model Isn’t Everything
Finally, if you’ve heard of the F model – the idea that SEO keywords should be concentrated in the top couple of paragraphs of your page, and down the left-hand side of subsequent paragraphs – you’ve probably heard it described as though it were the Holy Grail of writing SEO copy.
Good writers know that the F model is a rule of thumb, not a rigid structure – a good long-tail key phrase will do the trick even if it only appears mid-sentence a couple of times halfway down the page.
The trick isn’t purely getting the keywords in the most prominent places, but getting them into the page in a way that will be picked up by the search engines, without rendering the text unreadable to a human audience.
The Take-Home Message
We’re all guilty of one or more of the mistakes outlined above, at one time or another. You can see them time and time again, even on big brand-name websites, but you don’t have to repeat them yourself.
Define your SEO campaigns not by the search ranking you achieve, or by the number of hits you receive, but by a human criterion – time spent on page, conversion rate, or total profit per visitor.
It’s often easier to track the search-related statistics, but it’s the human criteria that really show you when you’re doing it right, and which can help you to make decisions about the copy you commission from your writers in the future.