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SEO Enhancement Series: Copy Writing

October 11th, 2010 | | SEO Copy Writing

Last week, Bethany kicked off this new series with her post on improving your keyword research. This week, I’ll be pickup up where she left off by giving you some advice on writing SEO minded copy for your website. The content you have on your website is the most important aspect of SEO. Going beyond SEO, writing good copy is the single most important aspect of your website, period. The first goal of any piece of content on your site, copy or otherwise, should be to better service your customers. Everything else is secondary. There is often a fine line between writing good SEO copy and writing copy your customers can relate to. I’ll answer some common questions to help get you on the path or walking the line between SEO and usability.

Why is copy important to SEO?

Basically, search engine can easily read and attribute your copy to page relevancy on any number of topics. Your copy generally contains the highest amount of “readable” content within your page. Search engines aren’t as sharp when it comes to reading relevancy into images or multimedia as they are at reading text. While they are getting better in these other areas, copy is still king. Think about it like this, if you pick up a newspaper article and only look at the photo, you don’t always know what the topic of the article is. If you read the caption, you’d have a better idea but you still wouldn’t have all the info until you read the article. If you only had the article, reading it would still get you to the point of understanding without the need of images. Search engines operate much the same way. If you have a photo that is properly tagged than great, but search engines can get most of the way there with your copy alone.

What do I do with all these keywords?

If you read part one of this series, you should have a sound keyword list that has been sorted into silos of 2-3 keywords per page. When finalizing copy for your page, it is essential to incorporate these keywords. You want to accomplish this by adding your keywords into your copy as naturally as possible. This can be done by writing for your customers first. Honestly, take your first pass at copy without any consideration for SEO. Write what you think your customers would want to hear. More often than not, this first run won’t be too far from your finished product.

Once you have your rough draft, you should start looking for ways to include the words from your keyword list. You don’t want to go nuts as oversaturation can hurt your rankings, but you should be able to find some sections that can be adjusted slightly to accommodate a keyword. Look for synonyms or words that can be interchanged in your writing.

For example: If you sell computers, with “computers” being a focus keyword on your page, you may find that you’ve written the term PCs into your “natural” run. Simply replacing PCs with Computers can help focus your copy on the SEO keyword strategy you’ve already developed. Look for the small changes you can make rather than trying to build copy from the ground up around a keyword list. You’ll find that it’s easier, takes less time, and sounds more natural when reading the end result.

There is no real formula for keyword density (at least no publicly known formula) and I’m of the opinion that keeping things natural is more important than coming up with a science for keyword insertion. If you are more of a numbers person, check out this article on keyword stuffing. It’s a little dated but gives a great “by the numbers” perspective to using keywords in copy. Also, if you’re interested in checking your keyword density on an existing page, here’s a great tool to do so.

Why does my copy have to be unique?

Writing unique copy is extremely important to your SEO efforts. You should never borrow copy, outside of a slogan or tagline, from other areas of your website. Even more important, you don’t want to copy information from other sources. Search engines can easily recognize duplicate copy and when they do, it will hurt your rankings. You should start every single piece of copy with a clean slate and write from scratch. Even if you’re talking about two very similar products, it’s important to keep the description of each unique. You can say the same thing two different ways and you want to take every opportunity to do so.

The other bonus of writing unique copy on your pages is that, well, it’s unique. Your users will appreciate the fact that they haven’t seen your content somewhere else. It keeps your site fresh and separates you from your competition.

How often should I update copy?

It depends on the type of site you are but the more often you can update your copy the better. There are some situations where daily or weekly copy updates are important, for example, in a blog. Other times, copy updates won’t take place as often. An example of this might be for a car company. Obviously they would update copy with new model years but it might not be that necessary to rewrite the book on the current model every month. Generally speaking, if there is information you can add or update on your site that will add value, do it. Search engines love new information. On top of keeping your users informed with the most up-to-date information, the search engines know your material is fresh and therefore that the site is active. Just remember, when you do add copy, be sure it’s optimized.

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Hopefully this gives you some ideas on how to integrate some basic strategies for writing copy into your SEO strategy. Remember, you want to keep your SEO efforts organized and optimizing your copy is just part of the equation. The most important factor when considering your copy is that if it doesn’t work for your customer, it doesn’t do you any good. Use your keyword strategy in your copy but be mindful of stuffing keywords in places where they don’t read naturally. If you’ve optimized copy for keywords and it still reads naturally, you’ve succeeded.

Robert is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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