Writing Seo Copy That People Want To Read


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SEO copy writing often involves finding the balance between what the Search Engines need in order to rank our site correctly and what your users need in order to have an enjoyable experience.

This Power Point, complete with extensive notes, explains how to write for both your users and the Search Engines

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  • The important thing to remember--so important that it has become a bit of a truism in the SEO industry, is that Search Engines only bring people to your site. They don't buy products or make you money in and of themselves. They are merely a conduit.  In other words, ranking highly enough in the SERPs to bring users to your site is only half the battle. Once the users arrive, you need to engage them immediately and lead them through the steps to conversion.  There are a lot of techniques out there to lower bounce rate and increase conversion and there are a lot of different schools of thought about how to design a website to enhance usability and make the path to conversion as easy as possible.  My job as a copywriter, and the job of anyone who writes web-copy is to figure out how to write instantly eyecatching copy that also smooths the path to conversion, while still meeting the relevancy needs of the search engines.   I'm going to tackle writing for the web both from the user's perspective and from the requirements of the search engines.  And I'll start with the easier of the two. 
  • Search Engines are pretty easy to please. They have no sense of style to cater to, and they're not going to buy anything so you don't need to pave the way to their way to conversion.  The only thing that is of interest to the search engines (as far as copy is concerned) is relevancy.  There are hundreds of element that the search engines take into consideration when ranking a site, but the one that counts when we're talking about copy is relevance. You need to pick good keywords, place them in key elements of the webpage and make sure that the page is formatted in a way that is easy for the search engines to index all the pertinent and RELEVANT information.
  • Keyword choice is the most important part about your SEO campaign, not the the copy aspect of it. Keywords should be relevant to your industry and relevant to the specific subject of every web page.  If you have a website about nails, and one page is about brad nails, you don't want to pick keywords pertaining to floor sinkers for that page.  It seems obvious, but a lot of people pick the wrong keywords for their individual pages.  Realistic Keyword choice is also important. If you're in a very competitive industry like education or finance or real estate, you're likely not going to rank for general terms right away. Depending on the nature of your industry and your online competitors, you may never rank for that top keyword.  Keep in mind your limitations when choosing keywords. Geo-targeting keywords is a great way to improve traffic to your website, and is especially important when trying to increase walking traffic to a brick and mortar business like a restaurant.  Geo-targeted keywords are also fantastic low-hanging fruit most of the time so take advantage of them, and use your physical location often in the copy. Long Tail Keywords:  A lot of our clients get so hung up on search volume that they can't understand that actual conversion comes from searches for long tail keywords.  By the time the user is searching for "brad nails for Ryobi nail guns" they are absolutely ready to buy and as long as your prices are competitive and that keyword leads them to a page that actually features the item, you're getting that conversion.  Long tail keywords have the highest ROI and are often the least competitive and the easiest to obtain. Include them in your writing!
  • Oddly enough, these bullet points are both in order of importance and in order of where they appear on the page. This is no coincidence.  When you're writing for the SEs remember that the bots care more about the first part of the webpage than they do about the rest of it.  Frontload all your important information.  That goes for the whole page as well a the individual elements.   The keywords should appear in the URL. Google loves that and it raises the relevance of the whole page. Additionally, and we're dipping into design here a bit, as we all probably know, static urls or at least static-appearing URLs are preferable to the messes of parameters and nonsense characters in a dynamically generated url.  If you're building a site from scratch, keep this in mind, and if you already have a site, retro fit it by doing a mod rewrite or something in order to make keywords show up in the url.   The title tag is by far the most important on-page element as far as establishing relevancy is concerned. Keywords absolutely must be present in the title tag, preferably before non keyword-oriented brand names.  The title should not be more than 160 characters in length or else Google will append it with an ellipsis.  Again, this is absolutely necessary. Although it's not used for ranking purposes, the meta description is often included under the title tag in search results with the relevant keywords bolded.  This gives you the chance to reach your viewers right away. Between the keywords present in the title tag and the bolded ones in the description, your viewers will recognize the relevance of your site to the keyphrase and will likely go there. However, since the meta description is seen by potential customers and viewers, don't sacrifice good writing to please the SEs! The Meta Keywords Tag is largely obsolete now. Yahoo was the last search engine that claimed to take it into consideration for ranking purposes and now that Bing is taking over search for them, no one will use it at all. (except your competitors, in order to see what words you're optimizing for.) Headers in the copy are the third important step in building ass kicking relevance to the site. They serve a duel purpose-- including the keywords and hard to fit phrases in the title to boost relevance as well as to attractively break up the copy to draw the reader's eye down the page. The H1 and H2 tags are the most common, indeed if you have more to beak up you might consider making two pages instead of one.  It is absolutely imperative that the focal keywords and phrases appear in the H1, although you don't want to make it a carbon copy of the title tag. Body copy is the next and last element of copy optimization. The focal keywords should appear approximately 2 to 4% of the time.  There should be about 350 to 500 words on a page as well. Google loves good information.  However, do NOT sacrifice the user experience to achieve this.  If you find yourself forcing keywords into copy, rethink what the page is supposed to be about. It should optimize itself.  Additionally, keep in mind that you can split up long and awkward key phrases. The most important places to have verbatim key phrases is in the title and header where they look more natural anyway. As long as elements of the key phrase are smatered around the body copy, you will maintain relevance.  Alt Text for media is a great place to place relevant keywords. Notice I didn't say a great place to stuff 60 words you didn't find room for in the copy.  If you have a picture on your page, use the alt tag to accurately describe it using keywords you're focusing on.  If there are no relevant keywords that can be associated with the image or movie or whatever, I would question it's inclusion.  
  • This is the area of copy writing that blurs into design work, but only a little.  It's imperative that the search engines can index the carefully crafted copy that you sweat over for hours.   The first and most important rule, and one I'm sure I don't actually have to mention but which bears mentioning anyway is Don't Be Sneaky.  Using hidden text or links or keyword stuffing alt tags is bad practice, and utterly pointless besides.  It drives me nuts to see people doing it because it's usually so unnecessary.  I'm not saying that Google will catch you at it, but if you're in a competitive enough industry, they won't have to. Your own competitors will nail you for sneakiness and report you to Google or Yahoo or whomever.  Use H1 and H2 Tags. As stated above, these help organize the page and break it up into more consumable chunks as well as boosting relevance if used correctly.  Google used to say it only indexed 100 links.  This has changed recently, but unless you're an eCommerce site or a directory, I would question the need for more than a hundred links on any single web page.  The speed at which your pages load theoretically has a lot to do with how often the spiders crawl it.  Plus, a huge amount of people are still using 56k connections and media rich sites drag on and on, almost ensuring a bounce before that pretty flash movie even starts playing.  That's where good copy comes in.  Including a sitemap at in a link from your home page ensures that the bots get a nice juicy one layer deep pathway to every page on your website. Why make them dig when they might not have to?
  •   A quick side note, the following information is couched in the assumption that you are writing for a reader who wants something other than simple information. Meaning the following model of writing does not apply if you're writing blog or a news story or something like that.  We've covered writing for the search engines, and that was the easy part. Now for the tough part:  Making your copy as easily digestible and interesting as possible while maintaining the keyword saturation necessary to get noticed by the search engines. Rule number one and something that you should never ever forget is to not make your readers think.  Unless you're a newspaper or blogger (and even then, to a certain extent) people will leave if they don't find the info that they are seeking immediately.  
  • I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone here how sporadic and seemingly fickle and sometimes insane  web surfers are, especially if they are on a mission from God to find brad nails for their new nail gun.  They're crazy clicking machines. One of the most annoying and frustrating aspects of the internet (for the web master) is that there is no sense of commitment on the part of the user.  If you drive to a store you're probably going to stick around a bit longer than walking in the vestibule by the cash registers to see if they have what you're looking for.  Webmasters don't have the luxury of that 10 minutes of searching cause you came all the way out here for whatever it is.   The user will normally decide whether the site is useful for their purposes within some fraction of a second. It's up to you to make sure they stay on the page and look around.  This is where copy comes in handy. It's immediately accessible and can be incredibly clear.   One of the best ways to decide how to handle the copy on your webpage is to pay attention to the type of keyword you're optimizing for. Users react differently depending on what stage they are in the game. For instance, a user searching for nails might be looking for many different things. They might not know exactly what they want.  A page optimized for nails might have a longer time period in which to engage the user since they're clearly still researching what they need. On the other hand, a page optimized for brad nails for a ryiobi nail gun better hat the box of nails with a price and a nice red checkout button at the top of the page or I'm going somewhere else immediately.  Additionally, the type of keyword you're optimizing for dictates (to a certain extent) whether your reader will be scanning the page for relevant information or reading it in depth.  If they're there for research purposes, you can have larger sections of heavily descriptive copy with little separation because they are there for the purpose of reading. If they're looking for something specific when they get to that page you'd be better having very sparse copy separated and broken apart by headers or bullet points or what have you because they'll be scanning for what they want and if it's not readily apparent, they'll leave. 
  • As discussed before, words are quick and easy.  Load time is low and they're immediately accessible.  God forbid someone has to sit through a flash page to load or wait for some huge images to materialize.  Good, well written sales copy will win over media every time.   Remember that a lot of people have slower internet connections than us power geeks.  The average household probably still only has one computer on a cable connection that's being shared with half their block, weighed down by spyware from questionable late night browsing practices.  Your flash movie won't even have time to upload before the hamster scampers off.   Words are scan-able. Media is not.  Pictures aren't bad, except for the pesky fact that search engines can't see them, but movies are awful.  You can't scan through a tutorial video about troubleshooting your new nail gun. You CAN scan through a bullet point list, one item of which is "Turn the safety off, dumbass." Again, the point is to get information across as fast as possible and to not frustrate your user. 
  • Keep the relevant easy to read stuff in the first level of navigation on a site.  Your home page should showcase your product, service, class offering or whatever and have a clear call to action on it.  It's for us and our clients to bury the ego and put bios on the "about us page" which only has one little measly link in the footer of the web page, but this is necessary to achieve high conversion rates.  It's a rare case where people need to know about the company's founder who came off the boat from Italy in order to buy the blue widgets or whatever.  Most of the time, people just want to see what they came for: information about a particular product or service that they need.  Along this line comes the inverted pyramid. If you read the newspaper, you know how this works.  In academic writing, you start out at the top of the pyramid with a small bit of information or a theory then you build on it, adding more and more and more until you get to the base which has the most information and hopefully convinces your philosophy teacher that you did read the material and it is upon Plato's words and not a moment of hungover inspiration that you base your argument.   Online, you need to bring the base of that pyramid to the top and give the reader ALL the info they need to make their decision as succinctly and directly as possible.  then. Then you peter down through the advantages of making the decision, the benefits to you and your company or what have you.  They probably won't read that far, but hopefully you've already made your point.   Creating scan-able text actually helps you achieve the inverted pyramid goal because it's easy to get a hell of a lot of information in a very unassuming and easy to read bullet point list, or in a few short paragraphs separated by headers.  
  • There are a lot of instances where writing fun copy is really easy. If you have a blog about a really cool subject, the copy's automatically fun and interesting to read for your audience. If you are writing editorials on an ezine, the same is true. But what about if you're selling brad nails for a ryobi nail gun? or selling certifications for welders? or selling videos about different kinds of paint drying?  Then you need to go the extra mile to engage your readers quickly. The first rule of thumb is to write as conversationally as possible. you're trying to establish a repore with your reader through words on a computer monitor. There's a million obstacles getting in your way.  Don't let dry language be one of them! For instance, what was the first thing that you learned about writing in middle school? Never say I or Me or You. It was always "if one thinks one can, then it is certainly possible" and like that.  Forget that! Web writing is completely different from that style of academic writing. The casual nature of the internet is breaking down old grammatical laws and making them more like suggestions.  This is great, because it makes writing in the vernacular of your demographic way more acceptable than it would be in print ads or TV commercials.   Leave out the corporate speak.  Speak in layman's terms.  Otherwise you stand the chance of loosing your viewer's interest.  Even CEOs of fortune 500 companies don't actually like reading legalese.  And I bet that, because of the medium of the internet, they wouldn't think the tech company that they are about to invest in is unprofessional because he said "You're going to love this when you see it."  Which brings to mind another point. Don't hesitate to voice opinions or give commands. Writing in  active voice will help galvanize your reader to do whatever it is you want them to do while setting you up as someone is confident enough in their knowledge to voice the opinion or give the command.  
  • Writing Seo Copy That People Want To Read

    1. 1. Writing SEO Copy that People Want to Read Search Engines lead people to your site, but the people are the ones who convert
    2. 2. Writing for the Search Engines
    3. 3. Keyword Choice <ul><ul><li>Relevant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Long Tail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geo Targeted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Realistic </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Keyword Placement <ul><ul><li>URLS                                                  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Title Tag                        </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meta Description </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meta Keywords Tag </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Header Tags: <h1> and <h2> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Body Copy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Include Alt Text for Pictures </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Web Site Format <ul><ul><li>Don’t be sneaky  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design around copy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use <h1> <h2> etc. tags </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fewer than 100 links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fast loading pages rock </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Include site map </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy, two or three level navigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Check site in SEObrowser.com </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Writing for People
    7. 7. User Behavior <ul><ul><li>Web users are incredibly fickle. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No sense of commitment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only a few seconds to impress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Long tail vs.short searches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scanning vs. reading </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Copy Vs. Media <ul><ul><li>Words are quick and easy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many users have slower connections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Words are scan-able; Media is not </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Front load copy if you must have media </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Presentation of Information <ul><ul><li>Less is more! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inverted Pyramid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create scannable text </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Making Boring Copy Fun <ul><ul><li>Write conversationally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use the active voice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write in your demographic's vernacular </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Online grammar or lack thereof </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vary sentence length  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No corporate-speak </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remember accessability </li></ul></ul>