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SEO copy doesn't have to sound like "that"

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Karon Thackston, web copywriting superstar, busts some myths about SEO copywriting then explains how to optimize your text for search engines and still keep it great to read.

It has moved beyond the ridiculous and escalated to the frustrating. I'm talking about the predictable response I get from prospective clients who have been predisposed to pitiful examples of search engine optimized copy. When asked, "Do you want SEO or non-SEO writing," they reply, "Oh, not SEO copy. I don't want it to sound like that."

With a heavy sigh, I begin to explain that good SEO copy doesn't sound like that... only poorly written SEO copy. What these leads have seen is (what I refer to as) the cycle of the Internet. It's a constant factor in online marketing. Some piece of information is released and - before you know it - it has been misinterpreted, twisted and severely overused to the point of destruction. Exactly the case with SEO copywriting.

Remember the old phrase "If one is good, two is better”? It has been applied to SEO copy in the worst way. It doesn't take a boatload of keyphrases shoved here, there and everywhere to make good search engine copy. In fact, that's the recipe for disaster when writing optimized text. Why? Because you have a dual audience: the search engines and, most importantly, your site visitors. Not recognizing this fact is one of the biggest mistakes made with SEO copywriting.

Keep your copy balanced

You have to keep things in perspective when writing search engine copy. Search engine placement is a means to an end: it pulls traffic to your site. Those human beings then take out their credit cards and make a purchase or subscribe or contact you for an appointment. No search engine has ever done any of those things.

Your end goal is not to achieve high rankings. It is to attract people who will ultimately become your customers/subscribers. Therefore, your copy has to be well suited to both. You should always consider the end user/reader of your copy when writing. When asking yourself the question, "Will writing this way be good for my search engine placement?" also ask, "Will it help my site visitors?" If the answer to the latter is no, don't do it.

Resist the urge to stuff

As I mentioned previously, the old saying "If one is good, two is better" is far from true when it comes to writing with keywords. Good SEO copy ignores the misguided call to include volumes of search terms and resists the urge to stuff keyphrases in every nook and cranny.

If you're learning to write SEO copy or you're looking for ways to perk up lacklustre results you've gotten in the past, this is a surefire way to improve. Use keyphrases strategically in your copy, not haphazardly. Good places to include them?

  • Headlines
  • Sub-headlines
  • Photo captions
  • Body copy
  • Link text (anchor text)
  • Navigation links
  • Calls to action

Vary your use of keyphrases

Another elementary mistake? Using keyphrases the same way every time. So often in badly written SEO copy I see only one keyphrase tactic used: replacing every generic instance of a term with keywords. When this happens, you get the repetitive, robotic, unnatural-sounding copy that repulsed the site owners I mentioned earlier. It will also cause your visitors to raise their eyebrows. The result is often something to this effect:

XYZ Discount Office Supplies can save you tons of money. From pens and pencils to desktop organizational tools and other discount office supplies, you'll find a large selection to choose from. No other discount office supplies company has the excellent customer service we do. Tired of shopping at discount office supplies chain stores? Then buy from a company who provides discount office supplies along with excellent customer service. Order your discount office supplies today.

Regardless of whether it should be plural or singular, despite the fact that no one would talk this way when communicating this information in person or over the telephone, keyphrases replaced every instance of the generic terms office supplies or office supply. You be the judge of how it sounds.

Get creative

Instead of sticking strictly to the overused keyword strategy outlined above, get creative with your keyword use. One of my favorite ways to use keyphrases is to break them up. Is that legal? You bet!

How does it work? You insert punctuation or line breaks between the words in any given keyphrase. Because search engines ignore basic punctuation and line breaks, they see the keyphrase as if it were untouched. Let me show you.

For our example, we'll use the same search term we focused on above: discount office supplies.

Whether you're stocking up on Post-it notes or redecorating your lobby, you'll find everything you need at a deep discount. Office supplies, furniture, accessories and more are available at wholesale prices direct to the public. Because we buy in bulk, we pass the savings on to you through a members-only discount.

Office supplies have never been so affordable! Contact us today for complete details on joining the XYZ Office Supplies member program.

See? In one example, the word of the keyphrase (discount) was separated from other words in the phrase (office supplies) by a period. In the second example, discount was separated from office supplies by a period and a line break. Because the engines ignore periods and line breaks, they see both uses as the entire phrase discount office supplies.

When you take the time to understand how search engines view keyphrases, it gives you a lot more freedom when writing with keywords. You'll discover there are almost a dozen ways to use keyphrases to write great, natural-sounding search engine copy. Once you master these skills, you, too, can produce SEO copy that doesn't sound like that.

Does your copy sound stiff? Need help using keywords creatively and naturally in copy? Karon's book Writing With Keywords gives you 11 easy, legal ways to incorporate keywords without ruining the flow of your copy. **Wordtrackers (that's you) can get a 20% discount on Karon's new book if they use discount code wt20 before 10 December.

About Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words which provides SEO & web copywriting services plus professional copywriting training.

Copy not getting results? Want to learn to write natural-sounding SEO copy yourself? Check out Karon's complete copywriting course, keyword optimization guide, and other books today.

If you prefer, contact Marketing Words for a web copywriting quote.