What SEO Copywriting Is… and Isn’t
I’ve been frustrated lately. It seems people just don’t get it. There’s lots of talk about SEO copywriting these days, but hardly any of it is on target.
The majority of the conversations, posts and articles I’ve seen deal with topics like keyword density, allowable limits, over optimization and such.
These people are making search engine copywriting all about the search engines. They are forgetting the fact that SEO copywriting is still copywriting.
What that means – generally speaking – is you are still writing promotional copy designed to cause a *person* to take a specific action.
Your target audience (your site visitors) should come first. The elements designed to help the copy rank well absolutely come last.
What good is all the traffic in the world if your site copy doesn’t convert visitors into buyers? Not much.
That’s why – when writing SEO copy – the human visitor comes first.
Unfortunately, SEO copywriting is getting a bad name because so much of what is being cranked out is repetitious babble.
Most of these pages would never have made it on to a site, except for the fact that the site owner wanted to rank highly for certain key terms.
So, in the interest of salvaging the good name of search engine copywriting, before it’s too late, let me offer some guidelines.
SEO Copy Is:
· first and foremost – written for the visitor.
· unique and purposeful.
· natural-sounding – it flows.
SEO Copy Is Not:
· written exclusively with the engines in mind.
· mirrored, adjusted or altered to create new pages by simply changing keyphrases.
· stiff, forced or overly repetitive.
The Dos of SEO Copywriting
When writing SEO copy, you’ll want to:
· understand who you are writing to.
· choose what the focus of the page will be.
· create a plan outlining the message you want to convey.
· decide how best to communicate that message to your particular target customers.
· choose which keyphrases will be incorporated into the copy.
· make sure those keyphrases work well with the page and the planned copy.
· incorporate keyphrases as you write (not after you write), so they flow naturally with the planned message.
The Don’ts of SEO Copywriting
When writing SEO copy, you should never:
· create a plan based solely on how to rank high.
· replace *every* instance of a generic term (car) with a keyphrase (red, convertible car).
· add pages of copy simply to appease the search engines.
· rely on useless keyword density ratios and formulas.
· shove keyphrases in everywhere possible. (No, it won’t get you banned, but it will sound completely ridiculous!)
SEO copywriting is not the process of writing exclusively for the search engines.
It is the process of writing copy to appeal to your visitors, while including elements to help the search engines and your visitors understand what the page is all about.
If you remember who truly makes or breaks your site’s success (your customers!) and focus on them, you’re sure to create SEO copy that rings true.
What the difference web copywriting makes
Web site copywriting is special method that allows the companies to advertise and promote themselves.
In today’s highly competitive and ever-changing online environment it is not enough to rely on the texts alone.
One should combine the knowledge of offline copywriting with online realities.
Professionally written web site copywriting is one of the most significant and important elements of your web site.
It is widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to communicate with your potential customers, retain old ones and attract new clients.
In the developing of your web site you should understand that web site copywriting is one of the most significant elements of your marketing strategy.
It is used by many companies to promote their businesses and services.
It is widely regarded as one of the most efficient tools in the developing of online copywriting process.
How do people get on your web site? How do they find the site of your company?
Certainly some of them already know your company and some of them might visit your web site because they have read advertisement about your company.
However, most of the visitors visit your site by the results of search engines after they put search terms they are interested in into the search engine boxes.
Once the visitor has come to your web site you should try to grab his attention immediately.
One should remember that most of the visitors do not have much time to read the whole text of your web site, the bulk of them just skip your text through.
That is why one should develop trustworthy and reliable connection with the visitor right from the start.
This is a prerequisite of transforming him into your potential client.
If the visitor is not interested or not impressed with your text he will be impressed with the text of your competitor.
Try to be precise, coherent and communicate with only one customer at a time. One should be engaged in direct dialogue with your customer.
Individuality is what matters. By emphasizing that you speak directly to a person you might make your message more custom-oriented.
The most successful web site copywriting copy is the one written based on the marketing research of your targeted audience.
That is why the services of marketers who can evaluate the competitors of your market, as well wishes and expectations of your potential customers must used in conjunction with the development of well-written copywriting copy.
Why Great Website Makeovers Begin With Copywriting
“Can you give me some feedback on my website?” a life coach named “Kevin” asked his e-zine subscribers. “I just revised my site – -finally!”
Naturally, I couldn’t resist clicking over to see what Kevin had done. I knew Kevin was a thoughtful coach with a reputation for high integrity.
Kevin’s new site cried out for a re-makeover. He had paid a designer to get drop-down menus and a bit of flash.
As a result, Kevin admitted, “I have no budget to pay a copywriter.”
After skimming a few pages of the site, I emailed Kevin. “Who is your target market? What do you offer? How are you unique?”
Kevin replied, “I asked for feedback. I don’t have time to answer a lot of questions. And everyone tells me the site looks professional.” Okay. I can take a hint.
Sure, the site looks professional. But Kevin admits he’s in trouble. So far, he’s gotten nothing but compliments — no orders and no calls.
What can we learn from Kevin?
(1) Copywriters can save you money.
Often I (and other experienced copywriters) can save clients money on web design. Kevin didn’t need all those bells and whistles.
In fact, some Internet marketing gurus claim they do more harm than good.
And Kevin didn’t understand HTML, let alone CSS. A copywriter might serve as go-between, translating Kevin’s requirements into web design language.
Your web designer saves time – which translates into saving money.
(2) Copywriters help you earn money.
Reading between the lines, I discovered Kevin could be a stand-out.
He has developed an innovative 5-step process to help clients overcome obstacles and take charge of their lives.
But Kevin doesn’t realize why he’s unique, so his website reads like five thousand other life coaching sites: vague promises of “take your life to the next level,” “discover what’s important to you” and “enjoy the work you love.”
Naturally I’m disguising the details of “Kevin’s” story, but I really don’t have to. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of sites sound just like Kevin’s.
(3) Copywriting is collaborative.
Like Kevin, my clients often think they can show me a few pages of a website and say, “Make it sell!”
Copywriting requires energy and planning, whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a firm believer in outsourcing to a specialist.
My clients often invest many hours answering my questionnaire. As they write, they often realize there’s a hole in their business strategy.
Or they’re sitting on buried treasure.
Until I know what Kevin wants to do with his website and his business, I can’t make realistic recommendations – even as a casual ezine reader.
I need to evaluate Kevin’s copy in the context of Kevin’s own goals, target market and unique selling proposition.
Kevin could do this himself. But, like most busy business owners, he didn’t want to invest the time. And he wasn’t sure what questions to ask.
When clients hire me, we have the luxury (and fun!) of creating a marketing message that hits the target market squarely in the center of the bull’s-eye.
Bottom Line: Websites deliver messages. Without a message, a website is a calling card – nice when you have more business than you can handle.
Most of the time, revising copy brings traffic and sales.
Websites typically earn back the copy investment with just a few new clients, not to mention saving energy and funds by avoiding a makeover to recover the makeover.
And one day you realize you’re not getting compliments… but you *are* getting sales.
Why Should I Bother With Optimised Online Copywriting?
It’s no good having a creative, individual website with brilliant, informative copy if customers can’t find you on the internet.
On the other hand, it’s also detrimental if you have a website that can be easily found (has a high ranking) but people become bored and alienated reading it.
Producing effective online copywriting is a creative process blending art and science in a balanced technique combining many different elements.
This integration of disciplines is required to satisfy both the technical and the aesthetic objectives of a website.
Optimised online copywriting should ensure that your website is:
* highly readable to your viewers
* highly visible to the search engines, and thereby
* commercially successful for you.
Many people and businesses don’t have the time to actually write web copy themselves.
A professional freelance copywriter can furnish you with keyword-rich, highly original web content to enhance and improve the quality of your website, with the aim of transforming more of your visitors into customers.
Rarely will you get a second chance to engage your customer’s attention, so your first shot must be formatted for maximum sales potential, catching the eye of the search engine robots as well.
But not too much… If your copy goes overboard in favour of the search engines it can earn a penalty from Google that will negatively effect your rankings.
Your website must always have the reader as priority. This makes more business sense anyway.
Search engines provide a way for potential customers to find you on the internet.
People type a keyphrase or keyword into a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo or MSN (or one of the many other popular engines) and this returns a page of listings – web page suggestions for that particular phrase or word.
Obviously, you want your website to feature highly in this list.
Optimised online copywriting specifically targets the words and phrases people are using when searching for a product on the internet (Search Engine Marketing (SEM), keyword research).
You want to make sure your website stays at the top of the listings so people go to your website before others.
With targeted copy in place, search engines are more likely to index your web site on page one, than if it does not include keyword-rich copy.
This is an ever more important issue when dealing with Google, the leading search-engine today.
To rank highly in the search engines the words on your web pages should never be an afterthought, but should be included right at the beginning in the original design of your website.
Content development is the most valuable asset web developers can utilise in the bid for productive, successful search engine optimisation and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
Hiring a professional copywriter is a wise investment in your business future.
Even if you don’t want to optimise your site you should make sure that the words on your site are reasonable, enticing, spelled correctly and artfully arranged to engage attention.
Just because you can type letters or write some emails doesn’t mean you can write the copy for your website.
The writing on your homepage is often the way people determine whether the website is a scam or the genuine article, good quality or a shabby affair.
Your website’s credibility takes a nose-dive if the spelling is wrong, the grammar incorrect, or it just reads like bad, clumsy English.
People will be disinclined to trust your content.
Within the search engines new technologies and algorithms are being developed all the time to make search methodologies smarter, more astute.
It’s never a coincidence when someone types in a search phrase and your website is indexed highly on the page.
Keyword rich online copywriting is a significant and critical component in gaining high rankings on the search engines.
Recently, Google has been pioneering a new trend of intelligent search engines which are not attracted by mere repetition of words throughout the text, but which look for meaning, attempting to make grammatical sense of the information, trying to understand what the web page is actually saying.
This is forcing webmasters to improve the content on their web pages or suffer the consequences. The old saying has never been more relevant: “content is king.”
Writing Benefit-Driven Web Copy – 4 Steps to More Sales
You’ve identified the benefits you offer your customers, but how do you turn a list of benefits into engaging web copy which converts visitors into customers?
Recently I wrote an article explaining how to identify the benefits you offer your customers (http://www.divinewrite.com/benefits.htm).
That article challenged business owners and marketing managers to think in terms of benefits rather than features when writing their web copy.
What the article didn’t discuss was how to actually write the web copy once they had identified their benefits. That’s what this article is about. (It even gives you a couple of templates you can use to make your job a whole lot easier!)
As a website copywriter, many of the projects I undertake are completely new websites.
The client has some general ideas about what they’d like to convey, but they need someone who can fine-tune their message, and create web copy (and a web structure) which engages their readers.
As a result, over the years I’ve developed a process for doing this effectively. There are four main steps:
1) Identify benefits
2) Identify how you deliver these benefits
3) Prioritise your benefits
4) Write the content
Although this article touches on step 1, it’s mostly about steps 2, 3, and 4.
STEP 1 – IDENTIFY YOUR BENEFITS
Branding aside, most websites are about selling. Customers don’t want to know what you can do; they want to know what you can do for THEM.
That means the first question you should ask is, “What benefits do I offer my customers?”
This is usually the first step toward identifying the key message to be conveyed.
That’s not to say that your website shouldn’t describe your products and services. You just need to make sure it describes them in terms of benefits to your customer.
But benefits identification is outside the scope of this article.
If you’d like to find out more about how to engage your customer with benefits, go to http://www.divinewrite.com/benefits.htm.
STEP 2 – IDENTIFY HOW YOU DELIVER THESE BENEFITS
Of course, you can’t just claim to deliver benefits and stop at that. You need to support that claim.
On your website, you’re going to need to convince your audience that you actually do deliver these benefits.
Anyone can say they deliver benefits, but few can say it persuasively.
From step 1 you’ll have a list of benefits. Now you need to think about how you deliver each benefit in that list.
This is where you start talking about features – price, product highlights, distribution channel, competitor weaknesses, external factors, USPs, etc.
It’s helpful if you draw up a table with one column for benefits and one for the features which deliver those benefits.
(Click http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/benefitsfeatures.doc to download an example Benefits-Features table – 20KB.)
You’ll probably find this process much easier than identifying benefits. In fact, you’ve probably got most of this information written down already… somewhere.
If not, chances are you uncovered a good portion of it when you were brainstorming for benefits.
TIP: If you’re having trouble identifying supporting features, before filling out the table, try listing everything you can think of which relates to what you do and how you do it.
Don’t worry about the order. Just braindump onto a piece of paper, a whiteboard, a Word document, anywhere… Don’t leave anything out, even if it seems unimportant. (You’d be surprised how important even the most insignificant details can become once you start assigning them to benefits.)
If you start getting lost, think back to the question you’re trying to answer: How do you deliver your list of benefits to your customer?
Once you’ve done your braindump, read through it and decide which specific benefit each feature delivers.
STEP 3 – PRIORITISE YOUR BENEFITS
Now that you’ve identified all the things you COULD say, it’s time to figure out what you SHOULD say and where you should say it.
This is where your benefits-features table comes into play.
Read through your list of benefits and prioritise them according to how compelling they will be to your reader.
The reason for this? Priority determines prominence. The most compelling benefits will need to be prominent on your site.
TIP: Be aware that your list may include some benefits which everyone in your business category could claim.
In other words, they’re not just specific to your company, but apply to the type of service you offer.
For example, if you sell a Content Management System (CMS) for website creation, you may list “Greater control for marketing managers” and “Less expense updating content” as benefits.
Every CMS vendor could claim these benefits, so you’ll need to question their importance. Will they differentiate you from your competitors.
Generic benefits can be useful if none of your competitors are using them, or if you feel you need to educate your market a bit before launching into company-specific benefits.
STEP 4 – WRITE YOUR CONTENT
So now you know what you’d like to say, it’s time to decide how to say it. This is about three things:
i) Subject – What is the subject of your site; features or benefits?
ii) Structure – How do you structure your site such that your customers will read your most compelling benefits?
iii) Words – What words should you use to best engage your audience (and the search engines)?
The remainder of this article is dedicated to Subject and Structure. For further discussion of Words, see http://www.divinewrite.com/webwriting.htm and http://www.divinewrite.com/seocopy.htm).
What is the subject of your site; features or benefits? The answer to this question lies in audience identification.
If your audience knows a bit about the type of product or service you’re selling, lead with features (e.g. processor speed, turnaround time, uptime, expertise, educational qualifications, wide product range, etc.).
But make sure you talk about their benefits, and make sure the features offering the most important benefits are the most prominent.
Here’s a simplified example…
“Cool Widgets offers:
— Standard Operating Environment – Significantly reducing the complexity of your IT infrastructure
— System upgrades which are less expensive to license – Providing excellent TCO reductions”
In cases where you’re selling to an audience who knows very little about your product or service, lead with benefits (e.g. if you’re selling something technical to a non-technical audience).
Here’s the same simplified example, reversed for a novice audience…
“Cool Widgets offers:
— Reduced complexity of IT infrastructure – We can implement a Standard Operating Environment for your organisation
— Reduced TCO – We can upgrade your IT to systems which are less expensive to license”
How do you structure your site such that your customers will be sure to read your most compelling benefits? The answer is, keep it short ‘n sweet.
And make it scannable. This doesn’t mean you have to cut features or benefits. You just have to structure your site to accommodate your message.
While every site is different, as a rule of thumb it’s a good idea to introduce your main features and benefits on your home page.
Summarise them – preferably using bullet points, but at the very least, clearly highlight them so that your audience can scan-read (e.g. bold, underline, colour, link).
Then link from each summarised feature or benefit to a detailed description. Try to keep each page to approximately 200-400 words.
You may need several pages to detail all your features and benefits. (Click http://www.divinewrite.com/downloads/pagestructure.doc to download a page structure template – 29KB.)
TIP: In cases where you need to introduce features and benefits which are generic to your field (rather than specific to your offering), your home page is generally the best place to do it.
From there, you can lead to a second page summarising the specific features and benefits of your offering.
Web copy is about far more than just clever words.
It’s essential that you identify the benefits you offer your customer, and that you can convince your customer you actually deliver those benefits.
I hope that the guidance and tools provided in this article will help you on your way to engaging web copy which converts to sales.