Experts share SEO copywriting secrets
By Robert W. Bly
In November 2006, at the annual conference of the American Writers and Artists, Inc., search engine optimization (SEO) copywriter Heather Lloyd-Martin shared her methodology for writing Web pages optimized for organic search.
Heather’s proven approach to SEO copywriting – she’s one of the top practitioners in the field -- requires a few extra steps not used in writing for print media.
First, determine the correct key words and phrases to be used in each Web page. These are the words and phrases that the Internet types into the search engine when looking for information on your product.
Copywriter Dianna Huff advises having separate pages for each product and service you offer. You then optimize each page for the specific key words and phrases related to the product or service featured on that page.
Naturally, you want to use those terms that Internet users search for most. You can find them by using such keyword research tools as Wordtracker (www.worktracker.com), Keyword Discovery (www.keyworddiscovery.com), Overture Keyword Selector Tool (inventory.overture.com), and Yahoo Keyword Selector and View Bid tools (searchmarketing.yahoo.com/rc/srch).
Why must you use these tools before writing each page on your Web site? Because they show you the key phrases that prospects actually type into a search box to find products and services your company offers. When you incorporate these words and phrases into your Web site copy, the search engines rank you higher in the results that show up when searches on those words and phrases are performed.
The second step is to select, from the most frequently searched terms, two or three key phrases that are targeted for your Web page and grammatically fit into your copy for that page.
When writing copy for a Web page, make sure each of the two or three key phrases you selected appears at least three to four times within your copy – more if you can make it fit. But avoid “key word stuffing” – over-use of key words that makes copy sound awkward and artificial.
Read what you have written aloud. If your text sounds like spam, delete some of the key phrases until the copy is less stilted, and more natural and conversational. Remember, you are writing for human beings first, and computer algorithms second. The key phrases must smoothly flow within the writing.
Example: say the most frequently searched word for your product is “used widgets,” and you are having a half-off widget sale. A good headline for your Web page might be: “Save 50% on XYZ Company’s used widgets.”
Where do you drop these key phrases into your copy? Place them in each Web page’s headline and subheads, the main text (top to bottom), and the call to action links (hyperlinks). Use key words as underlined hyperlinks, e.g., dental veneers, teeth whitening.
In your copy, write benefit statements near your main key phrases. When Google displays a brief excerpt of your page content in its search results, the benefit statement will appear along with the key word, enticing prospects to click through to the page.
says descriptive key word phrases containing two to four words are better than
single key words, e.g., “
Another way to optimize your Web pages for the search engines is with meta tags. These are key words or phrases embedded within the HTML code used to create each Web page.
As far as SEO goes, the most important meta tags are Title, Description, and Keywords. These tags control what surfers see when your site is listed in the search engines, which means they help people decide whether to visit your site.
“Title” is what your visitors see at the top of their browser window when visiting your site. Make sure each page has a title that makes sense to your visitors.
Be descriptive. Failure to put strategic key words and phrases in the page title is often why Web pages are poorly ranked. Title meta tags should be 50 to 75 characters including spaces.
“Description” is the opening statement people see when your Web site comes up in search engine findings. The description should concisely answer the question, “What is your product or service and what does it do for the customer?” Recommended length: 50 to 175 characters, again including spaces.
“Keyword” meta tags, as the name implies, are the key words and phrases that Internet users search most often when looking for your product or service. In addition to strategically placing these key words and phrases in your Web copy, they should also be listed in your meta tags.
Don’t cram the keyword meta tag with every key word and phrase you find using the research tools; five to seven key words in the meta tag is ideal.
Look at the meta tags on your Web site. From your browser’s tool bar, choose the “view” menu and then click on “source” to open a Window containing the HTML code for that page. If they don’t fit the criteria above, rewrite to improve.
One more point: these SEO copywriting tips apply primarily to pages on traditional Web sites. Search engines typically rank long-copy landing pages low, and SEO copywriting does not significantly improve the rankings of single-page Web sites.
About the author:
Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of more than 60 books including The Copywriter’s Handbook (Henry Holt & Co.). His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his Web site address is www.bly.com.