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A Quick Guide to SEO Copywriting

What’s the secret to strong positions in Google, Inktomi and other spider-based search engines? Well-written, keyphrase-rich text. Successful search engine copywriting weaves keyphrases (words your prospects use in a search to find your products and services) into your Web page copy. For those used to “conventional” online copywriting, SEO copywriting goes an extra step, meshing customer searching behavior with persuasive, informative prose.

SEO Copywriting Enhances (Not Detracts) From Your User’s Experience

SEO copywriting preferred practices do not require that you sacrifice your existing tone and feel for higher search rankings. Nor will inserting keyphrases into your text sabotage your conversion focus. Rather, search engine optimization writing results in well-written, compelling and informative text that gains prime positioning. The final result is seamless to your prospect and highly readable – yet powerful enough to be positioned as highly relevant for your key search queries.

A common misconception is that search marketing is primarily a “techie” profession, relying on back-end code for front-end positioning success. However, content is truly king within the search marketing space – and SEO is one place where online marketers thrive. Marketers intimately understand that every word – every sentence – can be skillfully enhanced for a conversion strategy. Pair that with well-researched keyphrases, and you have the beginnings of a powerful search marketing strategy.

Nine steps to Successful SEO Copywriting

Pages created with SEO copywriting techniques satisfy two demanding masters:

  • The search engines, which reward content-rich sites written according to SEO copywriting best standards with higher positioning.
  • Your prospects, who require customer-focused benefit statements, detailed information and a persuasive call-to-action.

When your internal marketing staff understands search marketing theories and processes, you can translate this knowledge into higher search positions. The end result is highly optimized text that’s skillfully written in-house – and without the need to outsource to a search marketing firm. Below are nine steps your marketing department can take to ensure preferred practices are followed:

  1. Do not focus on misspellings nor ungrammatically correct phrases within your copy. After some keyphrase research, you may notice that some phrases may be extremely popular – but are grammatically incorrect and would not be able to be intelligently woven into a page. For instance, the phrase “car warranties extended” may make sense to a reader. But, if you were to include that exact phrase as a main keyphrase within your visible text – your company would look unprofessional, branding your site as amateurish and untrustworthy.

    Keyphrase-rich text does allow you to indirectly capitalize from ungrammatical searches. For instance, if your site has the words “car warranties extended” somewhere on the page, it may still position for a search for “car warranties extended” – even if it’s not an exact match to the search query.

    What about misspellings? Although it’s tempting to place misspellings on a page (especially with the amount of misspelled keyphrases out there) don’t do it. Like ungrammatical keyphrase strings, misspellings on your site can be enough to cause customers to leave your site for a more professional-looking competitor.

  2. Always research your keyphrases using trusted industry research tools. Unfortunately, keyphrase research is cavalierly disregarded as an “unimportant” step, thus hobbling any search engine success before it starts. Sadly, many marketing departments and business owners single-mindedly claim to “know” the exact phrases their prospects query with, refusing to do the most rudimentary reality check. That type of target market hubris results in worthless rankings for bad terms – and the offending Web site sees minimal ROI from its SEO campaign. Popular research tools include:
    • Wordtracker
    • Google AdWords Keyword Selection Tool
    • Overture Search Term Selection Tool
  3. Choose two to three keyphrases that are highly specific to each page. Remember, people can enter your site on any page, so a solid per-page optimization strategy is key. Plan on including your two to three main keyphrases at least three times each within the body text. If you are working with a highly competitive keyphrase, strategically insert the keyphrase more than three times, if possible. The goal is to make the page relevant for particular phrases – not to “spam” or “trick” the engines. Spammy-sounding text like:

    Our cashmere sweaters are the best cashmere sweaters on the market. Browse our cashmere sweater selection today for the best cashmere sweater deals” – is unreadable, spammy and has no conversion flow.

  4. Include keyphrases throughout your text. Spidering search engines zoom through your entire Web page, indexing every word of your wondrous prose. The goal is to strategically scatter your keyphrases throughout your entire page copy. Some copywriters feel constrained by “having” to include certain words within their text. They feel that the flow will be ruined by keyphrases, or forcing the use of certain words detracts from their creative freedom. However, the keyphrase-insertion opportunities are plentiful and almost fun. You have the freedom to insert phrases where they fit. You can include a keyphrase as word one or word 250. As long as you don’t lose readability, your strategy is safe.

  5. Emphasize your keyphrases in headlines and subheadlines. Emphasized text, like headlines, subheadlines and boldface, are considered important coding properties for search engines. What this means to you is that keyphrases appearing as emphasized text stand out to search engine spiders. When you include keyphrases within these SEO power places, you may boost relevancy for those phrases – and gain slightly higher positioning.

  6. Include keyphrases in and around your hyperlinks. Over the last couple years, search engines have strongly focused on link analysis. Google’s PageRank, for example, heavily relies on links for relevancy, as do the “new” breed of search engines like Teoma. The key to the link analysis algorithm is not only the number of links that point to your page, but also the contextual phraseology around the links. In other words, like with emphasized text, if your phrase appears in or near a hyperlink, the search engines may give it a relevancy boost.

  7. Include at least 250 words per page. Although this seems like a lot of text, a 250-word count for each optimized page exactly balances search engine and reader needs. This is because:

    • The search engine spiders crave content. You may see “a lot of words,” but the search engines see “a document with lots of important data to extract.” As long as you follow usability principles, you can write tons of text without overwhelming your reader. Besides, if the search engines see a lot of keyphrases combined with a low word count, they may flag your site for spamming.
    • A longer word count makes it easier to include your keyphrases without sacrificing your marketing message. Remember, prospects want more product information – and they will leave your site if they don’t find it. Detailed feature and benefit statements are the golden nuggets that tempt prospects and cause conversions.
  8. Include keyphrases in your Title (the blue bar above every Web page). Poor Titles can make a good optimization effort go bad. The search engines key on Titles as an important indexing component and rely on Titles to summarize page content. Unfortunately, many times Titles are created by the IT department who doesn’t understand the search marketing ramifications. The result is typically poor positioning and incomplete indexing by the engines.

    Think of Titles like a headline, summarizing the page information. When you include your keyphrases, the spidering search engines “understand” that those phrases are important, and help the page position better.

    The Title is important for your prospects, as well. Prospects click on your Title from the search engine results page, so it’s your first (and possibly only) opportunity for conversion. If your Title reads “Import auto body parts and car body kits,” rather than something like, “Home page – auto body parts, import cars, online ordering,” your page’s purpose is easier to grasp – and you’ll see higher click-thrus.

    Although the IT department has traditionally taken over Title creation (since it’s considered back-end code), they should be ideally hand-created by the marketing department. Just like with ad copy, a small Title text tweak can have awesome effects on positioning and conversions.

  9. Never sacrifice your conversion goals for search engine positioning. There are some marketing departments that believe that if mentioning a keyphrase three times is good – mentioning it 30 times on a page is even better. Although the page may initially position well, your customers will trip on keyphrase-packed writing and you will lose conversions.

Fortunately, savvy SEO copywriting blends usability with conversion. For instance, using benefit-rich headlines and subheadlines within body text copy enhance the reader’s ability to scan text. It’s also a great place to include keyphrases. People can quickly scan your headlines and determine what you offer and what your benefits are; and the search engines consider emphasized text more important. Right there, you’ve successfully combined usability with SEO writing.

Successful search engine copywriting leverages the online writing skills you’ve already mastered – it’s simply a case of tweaking your writing technique for top search positioning. Once you’ve learned the art of weaving keyphrases into your copy – and matching your text with informative call-to-action Titles – you should realize higher positions and improved conversion rates.

About Michael Boguslavskiy

Michael Boguslavskiy is a full-stack developer & online presence consultant based out of New York City. He's been offering freelance marketing & development services for over a decade. He currently manages Rapid Purple - and online webmaster resources center; and Media Explode - a full service marketing agency.

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