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Why SEO Copywriting Doesn’t Work for Direct Marketers

November 9th, 2006 by Bob Bly

SEO copywriting doesn’t work for many direct marketers who sell products on the Web.

Here’s why….

The most effective format for selling products directly on the Internet is not the traditional multi-page Web site, which is what SEO copywriting works best for.

Instead, online direct marketing works beset with a long-copy landing page, which is essentially a long sales letter posted as a one-page Web site.

“Most, if not all, one-page Web sites would NOT typically position in the engines,” says top SEO copywriter Heather Lloyd-Martin. “One-page sites are better for pay-per0slick, and not best for optimization.”

Heather suggested to me that we split our long-copy landing pages into multiple pages, each of which could be optimized for search engines.

But I told her that in direct marketing, one long page works much better than a series of linked, separate, shorter pages.

Reason: every time you force visitors to click to a new page, a significant percentage abandon the sales letter.

So let me ask: do YOU worry about SEO when writing Web copy? If so, what kind of Web copy do you write — traditional Web sites, content pages, product pages, landing pages, order forms, microsites?


This entry was posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2006 at 5:15 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

71 responses about “Why SEO Copywriting Doesn’t Work for Direct Marketers”

  1. Chris Williams said:

    I prefer writing things like e-blasts and case studies, but often I’m asked to write full small-business websites. In the past year or so, I’ve told all my clients the same thing – I’m glad to work SEO keywords in while I write, but I’m not going to write around keywords. That kind of copy looks badly out of whack. I read it and think, “Who was electroshocking the writer while he did this?”

    Kelly makes an excellent point, though. Are you writing so the search engines find you, or so the customers find you? It’s been my experience that the one does not follow the other. While I love the massive convenience search engines provide, they’re not customers.

  2. Andrew Palmer said:

    Bob… once again you are right on point. Ms. Lloyd-Martin is confused here. The organic web pages I create for the engines are all one page. “Less clicks equals more sales” – is the motto. We developed the long copy scroll after testing it against every other method.

    A good writer should just write… not for web or print, but for the reader/customer. The audience is the same for both and as said above the audience is NEVER the engines.

    With respect to web landing pages… I don’t want a copywriter to even think about SEO. After the creative is complete, it should be then edited specifically for the engines. (Keywords, format, coding, etc) The engines are looking for certain things and I don’t want that to affect a copywriter’s creativity. When they try to write for the “we/SEO” the copy is never as strong.

  3. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob, it really depends. If you’re a shoe seller and you have pages and pages of shoes, you bet it helps to have optimized pages. How else will people find your shoes for sale? (Trust me, I buy shoes online all the time and use search phrases to find what I’m looking for.)

    And, even if you are selling one product using one landing page, an optimized title tag, meta description tag, and some keywords in the copy won’t hurt your sales. Neither will links back to your page — another important SEO tactic.

  4. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob–Great timing (for me) on this question. I’m working on a catalog-type website for health products. And it seemed to me that SEO was going to be a critical part of the marketing? Wrong? Right? Frankly, I’d rather just write motivational copy and not have to lay search phrase mines… but if that’s what it takes…..

  5. BrettFromTibet said:

    I think SEO is critical part of writing copy website. It can be akward to write copy and headlines with the right keywords, but it has to be done.

    I’m working on a real estate site now, and the clients don’t care about optimization. I am trying to do it right for them whether they understand now or not.

    A site that relies on nothing but PPC, unless it has a fantastic conversion rate, cheap clicks and a high profit margin … is throwing money away.

  6. Susan Getgood said:

    I don’t see why you can’t have both. Short form pages as part of the core Web site, which helps with SEO, and the longer “direct mail” form as the landing page for a specific campaign.

    And yes, the short form pages should take keywords into consideration, but I do not believe in writing your Web site for SEO. You should write a Web site to sell a product. If you’ve got your value proposition right, the words you use will be the words people search on. Optimized.

    That’s what I’ve always recommended.

  7. richard pelletier said:

    I agree with Dianna. It depends. It’s really quite easy to drop in a fairly simple couple of sentences to help a search engine find a given site. But the writer should simply write the content cleanly and simply and in the revision/rewriting process, take shot at trying to optimize the content with keywords without sacrificing the narrative…Keep it simple. It works.

  8. Toby said:

    I beg to differ with several of my esteemed colleagues. The way people “search” on key words/phrases does not always follow the way that one would write traditional copy. Nor does it always follow the way one might intuitively write web copy.

    In fact, one might even say that writing for those little spiders would be more like direct marketing copy versus other types of mar com. If you live and die by the customers who find you on the web by searching (as many small commerce business models are structured) you had better find out what are those most searched on key words/phrases *that convert* and how to incorporate them in your website copy.

  9. Bob Bly said:

    Toby is right. It would be idiotic to rely on intuition, when a simple check with the Overture Inventory tool shows you the actual number of searches on various key words for that month!

  10. web2grow - web stuff » Effective copy for websites said:

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  11. Bill Henderson said:

    Forgive me for coming to this late–

    Two points. First, copywriters shouldn’t feel hobbled by having to work strategic keywords into their copy. I trained as a poet and one of the forms I learned was the sestina. It’s very demanding: 6 6-line stanzas, each line ending with one of the same 6 words (keywords!) in a set rotation pattern. A 3-line half-stanza ends the poem, stacked with all 6 words–again, according to a sst pattern. When you can write one of these, keyword placement doesn’t bother you a bit.

    I’ve also had some training in improv comedy–including “games” that require you to improvise a scene without ever using a particular word–for instance, “the.” Again, good training. Formal limitations can actually lead to some very interesting creative choices.

    My second point is that I’ve learned not to over-optimize for certain clients. A local design-build firm, for example, may want increased web visibility in their locale or area, but are not be interested in sparking a national response frenzy.

    Oh, also–I’m a believer in long copy, but I also see nothing wrong with optimizing the heck out of the first 50 or 100 words, and soliciting some quality incoming links. That 1-page promo still needs to be found.

  12. Brian Clark said:

    The answer is you write different copy with different navigation for different channels.

    In a world of quick and easy cut-and-paste, no one writes for one location, format or page.

    I hope.

  13. Barbara said:

    You have provided some very helpfull information on seo copywriteing, and it is a great resource, and I agree with your views compleetly. There is another resource that that I have come across and have referrenced several times that has provided me with some very usefull information on the topic of seo copywriteing. This is a site that was created by a person named Jason Ryan Isaksen. Have you ever seen his web site or had any experience with Jason Ryan Isaksen? If it would be ok, I would appreciate the chance to post a link to his web site on your blog, or would that be breaking the rules in any way? I think that everyone who visits your blog would appreciate and benefit from reading through the information that he has provided us with. Jason Ryan Isaksen has some educated and very helpfull insight on the seo copy writeing topic to share with anyone who is interested in the subject and is willing to take the time to read it. Have you ever heard of Jason Ryan Isaksen or any of his articles?

    Barbara Q

  14. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Give me that old time copywriting

    Thanks to By Will McInnes for pointing me to 5 Sure-Fire Social Media Headline Formulas That Work. Sounds very much like something Don Dunnington pointed out in a comment on, The top SEO trick is no trick at all. It’s called…

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