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The Three Bare Essentials
The three main staples of support for every article act as a tripod: without one,
the whole sheb...
42
Before you even put pen to paper, you must have the end goal for the article clearly in mind. Why?
Without working towa...
Keyword Research
Many people, with the advent of Hummingbird, announced it time to
throw all SEO copywriting guidelines ou...
Keywords: a trophy or atrophy?
Many clients for whom we’ll work will have ‘trophy’ terms, terms for which they’re adamant
...
Keywords: the pyramid effect
The problem with focusing too heavily on one or two keywords is
twofold:
1. for an audience, ...
Putting the Author
back into Authority
One of the reasons that Hummingbird was so widely misunderstood was the concurrent ...
What has authority to do with keywords?
So glad you asked. The vast majority of professional copywriters feel most at home...
A little bird tells me…
The release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 was the first real
(confirmed) clue that sea...
When is a link not a link?
For years, SEO has been built around link-building. When (okay, if) Google’s traditional link
v...
Does readability matter at all?
With all the talk of getting search engines to verify our content, does that
mean we shoul...
Readability (N.L.P.)
Following Hummingbird’s launch, the mass prognosis was that, in order to rank our content, we had to ...
Does your copy make the grade?
The web’s semantic backdrop provides Google with a stronger, more assured way to gather inf...
Break it down - don’ts
So, how do we go about making our content readable? Well, here’s what we don’t want:
• our copy to ...
Break it down - dos
Using the Hemingway app, we can insert our research notes to highlight where there are potential reada...
A quick note about webspam
- Keyword Density
Keyword density is another misunderstood topic. Whilst we often think that le...
Another note about webspam
- Links and Anchor Text
As copywriters, unless we’re writing for our own blogs, it’s usual prac...
Summary
A list of copywriting Dos that you can start implementing right now:
• Do identify your target audience/buyer pers...
Semantic copywriting guidelines and best practices
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Semantic copywriting guidelines and best practices

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The semantic web runs, in essence, on structured mark-up. The clarity of the copywriting we publish and perception of images we share are enhanced by code that computers understand.

The problem is, not everyone's got the time or inclination (or budget) to structure their entire site in schema, RDFa lite or any other type of recognised microdata format.

In the absence of this code, we can, however, give the search engines a helping hand when it comes to understanding us.

By writing in bold, concise sentences, we can produce the triples that both Bing and Google are struggling to extract without structured mark up.

By disambiguating the entities within our content, we can help semantic web crawlers understand our business, our target market and to whom or what we are connected on- or off-line.

The result enables the Search Engine the indexers serve to match our content with searcher intent, thus rank it in SERPs with confidence. And that's all that the Bings and Googles of this world want: a clear, concise answer to a submitted query.

I created this presentation, "Organic Copy: concise, clear content; make your entities stand out!", to compliment the Tele-SEO consultancy service offered by SEO Workers. They own the copyright, and have given me express permission to upload it here.

You can find out more about the semantic alignment and discoverability service SEO Workers offers, here: http://www.seoworkers.com/search-engine-optimization/tele-consulting.html

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Semantic copywriting guidelines and best practices

  1. 1. The Three Bare Essentials The three main staples of support for every article act as a tripod: without one, the whole shebang is liable to topple. They are: 1. keyword(s) 2. target audience 3. purpose Whilst keyword and target audience are self explanatory, an article’s purpose can vary »
  2. 2. 42 Before you even put pen to paper, you must have the end goal for the article clearly in mind. Why? Without working towards a purpose, your copy will be like the much-maligned broken pencil: pointless. But We have the answer to life, the universe and everything in these four mainstream writing goals: 1. inform – writing purely to furnish your reader (and internet) with information aligned with your expertise; 2. promote – do you have newsworthy content? Press releases and curation can keep your audience up to date; 3. sell – when writing sales copy (we have to sell, sometimes) be sure to make it clear that it’s advertorial in nature; 4. engage – there’s no better way to build your brand and engage with your audience than on their social media platform of choice, forum or even your own blog’s comments. Do remember – although it’s great to chat, the end goal of social is to drive website traffic. Not always directly, but by enhancing our authority, active followers can become our greatest brand evangelists.
  3. 3. Keyword Research Many people, with the advent of Hummingbird, announced it time to throw all SEO copywriting guidelines out of the window. Writing in a conversational tone is key. But there are many other aspects writers must understand to help Google take its ‘Baby Steps’ into the brave new world of Artificial Intelligence.
  4. 4. Keywords: a trophy or atrophy? Many clients for whom we’ll work will have ‘trophy’ terms, terms for which they’re adamant they must rank on page one of Google. This could be one keyword or a set of them that they believe will see them dominate their niche, should they get to #1. This is a huge problem! It’s the wrong metric for both our content and the customer. As a partner of mine once alluded after meeting one of our clients (and rightly so), “A little knowledge can be dangerous” Niche domination in search is no guarantee of increased income for the client. SEO is all about making the client more money; ranking is only one way of achieving that goal.
  5. 5. Keywords: the pyramid effect The problem with focusing too heavily on one or two keywords is twofold: 1. for an audience, waffling about the same topic over and over is plain old boring; 2. Google will (probably) penalise a website for web spam if its keyword-rich content is too narrow (think: Panda/thin content). Therefore, we have to build up the presence of supporting keywords to diversify our content. This is true of the website as a whole, not only on a ‘per article’ basis. In addition, the more evidence we can give Google to demonstrate that we’re talking about a specific topic, the more likely it is to rank us ‘with confidence’. Even if we only add a supporting keyword once across a website, we are reaching out to a wider audience, thus attracting broader, relevant search engine traffic through keyword diversity. "But [keyword]’s what I do”, protesteth the client. Even if a client’s website offers a single, solitary service, options for relevant content that we can provide are wide and varied. For one, their service/product - what they’re ‘known for’ - belongs to a hierarchy of entities (see slide 10). There will be associated products or services relevant to the client’s business and customers; even if they don’t sell those items per se, inclusion can attract indirect traffic. Also, every business has a USP (unique selling point/proposition) or DCA (dynamic competitive advantage). What is our client’s? Price? Service? Locale? Range? Personality and character? Identify the differentiators and sell/promote/inform about those benefits.
  6. 6. Putting the Author back into Authority One of the reasons that Hummingbird was so widely misunderstood was the concurrent phenomenon that was Google Authorship. Semantics, relationships and mark-up, what Hummingbird was really about, simply got lost in a smokescreen. All of a sudden, respected authors were seeing their mug-shots appearing in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) next to articles they’d put their name to. Wow! How cool was that? The problem was, Google Authorship spawned a cottage industry of its own. Like many industries or natural phenomena that are self-fuelling, this one burnt itself out meteorite quick. Like Toolbar PageRank, webmasters (and authors) once again began concentrating on the wrong metric. And The Mighty G saw all that it had made and it was very good - NOT! Hour upon tedious hour was devoted to working out how one made social annotations on the web work for them. In English? How they got their picture to appear next to their articles and the effect this had on traffic. Someone (who’ll remain nameless) even published the gazillions of profile pics he’d edited on a Pop-Art style board and proffered his reasons for the chosen one. The vanity of seeing their own faces appear before the world overshadowed, to some extent, the reason that got them there in the first place: creating authoritative content. No wonder it’s been shelved - well, to some extent.
  7. 7. What has authority to do with keywords? So glad you asked. The vast majority of professional copywriters feel most at home writing about topics in which we have inherent knowledge. This not only saves research time, but it also makes for the authoritative content Google prizes. Double bubble, right? But there’s always a time when we’ll have to write on subjects with which we’re not so au fait. Or, the SEO for the website will have identified keywords for which the competition is ranking, thus we’ll have to spread our wings and learn and write about those new concepts, too. As copywriter, it’s up to us to fit new keywords in naturally. Neither the reader nor Googlebot should identify that words appear on a page purely to satisfy search queries. The surrounding concepts must be relevant. Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner can help us execute this task. By entering the main keyword and/or landing page of the website plus the additional keywords, we're availed of a whole host of similar keywords and the search volume they attract. Here’s a how to article I ghost-wrote last year in anticipation of the new Keyword Planner. Although we may not want to use the business owner’s trophy term in a particular article, by selecting several related key phrases we can support the main topic - or concept - of the article. Coming back to Authorship, we then further what the client/business is ‘known for’. Whilst we may be in a period of Authorship Down, the Knowledge Graph - the database in which Google stores everything it knows about us and how we are related to other entities - is alive, well and thrumming along in an algorithm near you. The greater we can align relevant concepts with the entity about whom we’re writing using our broader array of researched keywords, the more Google will learn about our client’s niche expertise. Thus, the greater the spectrum of traffic said authority’s content will attract (via impressions or trust). Job done. Sort of.
  8. 8. A little bird tells me… The release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 was the first real (confirmed) clue that search was moving towards artificial intelligence (A.I.). You’ll have no doubt heard the phrase: “Strings not Things” But what does that mean? In a word, it’s a search engine being able to perceive intent beyond the use of the (key)words used to search themselves. As mobile search becomes more conversational, Google had to find a way to make this happen. Hummingbird was it. But what does that mean for content?
  9. 9. When is a link not a link? For years, SEO has been built around link-building. When (okay, if) Google’s traditional link value finally goes Yandex, what will take its place? Some may argue that the process has already begun. For the purpose of our content, in order to satisfy Hummingbird it’s a different type of chain we must heed: hierarchy. As we mentioned in slide 6, a client’s product (if he’s an OEM) or service (if a retailer) fits into a food chain. If, for example, you’re selling bouquets of flowers, your chain would look like: shopping/gifts/flowers/ ‘shopping’ is the top dog in the food chain, ‘gifts’ is next and ‘flowers’ is the final category. And you thought you were only writing about flowers, right? When thinking about the copy for our flower merchant, we must capture the entire chain. Not necessarily in one article, but certainly across the site. Implementing Schema.org or RDFa Lite mark-up in the HTML code behind the content we create, a skilled SEO can ‘mark up’ our copy to let Googlebot know with 100% confidence what, who and where the article is about before it’s finished crawling the page. It is this association of entities, linked to other relevant entities and marked up in a way to which search indexers can relate, that is the future of link-building. Do you follow? Or no-follow? Matt Cutts back in May, talking about the devolution of the traditional link and its possible replacement: “…even if we don’t know who actually wrote something, Google is getting better and better [at] understanding actual language…” As I point out in the comment, “Matt Cutts’ quote seems obvious to the point of ambiguity. But do we understand its ramifications? I mean, *really?*”
  10. 10. Does readability matter at all? With all the talk of getting search engines to verify our content, does that mean we should ignore the human readership? Erm, NO! But there are caveats. As a starting point, it’s worth reading Jakob Nielsen’s overview of how readers read on the web. As the summary succinctly says, they don’t!
  11. 11. Readability (N.L.P.) Following Hummingbird’s launch, the mass prognosis was that, in order to rank our content, we had to write in a conversational way. This concept was over-interpreted. Instead of keyword-stuffing or over-optimised link profiles, we had waffle. People began to ramble. The net effect? Rather than making content more accessible, authors were distancing themselves from their audience. As pointed out in the earlier Semantic X-Ray presentation, once we begin to fill our content with superfluous adjectives and adverbs, our true content’s message gets buried. One of the best recent articles to surface in recent times - flying in the face of those who’ve abandoned SEO copywriting guidelines - is on Bidsketch, entitled 7 Tips For Writing Content Like A Human. It tackles many of the concepts that have been misunderstood. In addition, Ruben provides examples of well- known blogs whose authors have implemented low-grade Readability successfully. We use the Hemingway desktop app, but the Bidsketch blog post also runs through a tool (that has a bookmarklet) whereby you can easily check how easy a page is to read. Or not. Here’s the why we do it bit »
  12. 12. Does your copy make the grade? The web’s semantic backdrop provides Google with a stronger, more assured way to gather information. With Google announcing that it wants answers to questions rather than out-and-out sales pitches, copywriters must identify a searcher’s pain point(s) and answer their questions in full. Across the millions of published words, making our concepts easy to perceive is key to ranking success. We must write in a way that's conversational. This appeals to the Hummingbird algorithm, specifically voice search. So ask and answer specific questions. Think about our additional keywords, how questions can be diversified to tailor an answer. Grade levels of Readability are important, especially for W3C and ‘signed in’ search where Google has pre-existing knowledge of you as an entity. This could be your background, academic level, forums you participate in and even who you follow. Therefore, if you're writing a technical paper, Google expects a higher-grade readability level. If the content you’re writing is to appeal to a mass audience, there should be as few literary barriers to entry as possible. So, if you’re writing: 1. for everyone, push the readability grade lower; 2. for high school graduates, aim for a mixture of plain fact and creative eloquence; 3. for academics, where specialist knowledge is required, it’s okay to use technical copy.
  13. 13. Break it down - don’ts So, how do we go about making our content readable? Well, here’s what we don’t want: • our copy to be monotonous; • to invite the wrath of Panda by producing thin content; • the human or mechanical reader to suss that we’re using blatant SEO. It’s also worth pointing out here that very little content that copywriters are asked to produce is original. What we don’t want is for our re-written content to add nothing that our research material isn’t already telling the search engines. Again, ‘unique content’ is a much misunderstood concept. Providing your audience with original, quality material isn’t only about passing Copyscape. It is about adding value over that which already exists online.
  14. 14. Break it down - dos Using the Hemingway app, we can insert our research notes to highlight where there are potential readability and accessibility issues. We can then break each of the instances down so that any hidden entities become disambiguated. We do that by ridding useless words, making the entity the subject of the sentence and always ensuring that ‘it’ is ‘doing’ [something] to the ‘object’. This rids the passive voice and gives us the opportunity to flex our creative writing muscle. How? Much of the content online is cliché. Use the thesaurus to rid adverbs and make our adjectives more concise, without making them too complicated for the (perceived) reader persona. Go back to our keyword research, and now we can factor in long(er)-tail search terms around the main topic to: • support the authority of the author, the content and the website; • strengthen the argument within the article; • attract more relevant traffic from a broader sphere; • keep the reader interested; the (sub-contract) job of every sentence you write is to get the reader to read the next. Simples.
  15. 15. A quick note about webspam - Keyword Density Keyword density is another misunderstood topic. Whilst we often think that less than 2% in our copy won’t invoke Googlebot’s wrath, there are other aspects to take into account. Googlebot doesn’t just read our article. It reads the HTML of the whole page. If there are sidebars, footers and navigation that contain keywords, they’re included in the whole calculation. If we cross the keyword density threshold, penalty ‘filters’ can take effect before a full penalty is served, which will affect our ranking. This is yet another reason why we should consider adding supporting concepts to our copy that don’t include trophy terms. Also worth considering are links. The traditional sort, not the food chain of hierarchies »»
  16. 16. Another note about webspam - Links and Anchor Text As copywriters, unless we’re writing for our own blogs, it’s usual practise for the SEO or webmaster to take responsibility for the mark-up code and any linking, internally on site or outbound links. However, the copywriter has a large part to play. If the SEO doesn’t have the variety of anchor text - words that are encased in a hyperlink - to play with (thus the main trophy term constitutes the sole basis of our linking strategy), our website will look like webspam. Sorry, how many reasons to diversify our key-phrases is that, now? Dunno ‘bout you, but I’ve lost count. Links do fall under the technical aspect of SEO. So, if you’re unsure of where the webmaster wants to link out to (or what page to link back to on site if you’re writing a guest post), always be sure to ask. This will help you fit more diverse terms in naturally. There’s also the possibility that Google is looking at over-optimisation of links on-site, in conjunction with advertorial content. If all of your links are pointing to the service page that sells your product using very similar anchor text, you could be inviting Panda, Penguin and manual penalties or filters upon yourself.
  17. 17. Summary A list of copywriting Dos that you can start implementing right now: • Do identify your target audience/buyer persona • Do understand the goal of your content (from the outset) • Do invest time in (supporting) keyword research • Do vary your keywords • (ask your SEO/Client if you’re unsure) • Do think about on-screen layout (e.g. Jakob Nielsen link [Slide 11]) • Do isolate entities within your content, put them in control and make them and their related concepts clear to man and machine • Do check where the [product/service] category fits in a hierarchy • Do make content accessible and comprehensible (readability/NLP) • Do rid any message-scrambling, superfluous content • Do remain relevant to entity, topic and purpose with every sentence, walking the reader through your content to the end/CTA • Do be mindful of thin content, anchor text and over-optimisation • Do relate to your reader as one human to another! So that’s pretty much it for this presentation. Here’s a quick overview of the takeaways and how you can start making your content more readable and accessible today » » » Thank you. I have been Jason Darrell (and hope to still be he tomorrow). You can hire me direct for article writing or through the SEO Workers team for the full Search Optimisation Experience. All images used in this presentation are CC2.0; see each page’s ‘Notes’ for their respective live URLs.

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