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SEO Copywriting - the truth about keywords.

Posted by Karon Thackston on 18 Sep, 2012
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SEO copywriting is full of myths and half-truths. Yes, you should do this, no you shouldn’t do that. But what does Google really think? Karon Thackston’s interviewed Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team to find out.

SEO copywriting is full of myths and half-truths. Yes, you should do this, no you shouldn’t do that. But what does Google really think? Karon Thackston’s interviewed Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team to find out:

Even if you're new to search engine optimization, I'm sure you've heard the old, worn-out advice when it comes to SEO copywriting. Use complete keyphrases and repeat them often (some cite a keyword density percentage).

But if you pay attention to the search engine results page (the page where Google and other engines serve up the results for the terms you search for) you'll probably notice what I've been seeing for years now. Sites that make the top rankings are not following traditional SEO copywriting methods.

I've been suspicious that search engine copywriting was taking a turn and finally… after my curiosity got the best of me… I decided to go straight to the top for answers. I interviewed Matt Cutts (Google's top anti-spam guru) about my observations. While you can read the entire interview here, I've paraphrased our conversation below for easier reading.

Expand your strategy for best results

Blue Suede Shoes by Yves Saint LaurentTypically, we hear that keyphrases should be repeated in headlines, subheads, ALT tags, copy and other pieces of text. Have you ever wondered why? In the early years, Google was only able to do exact or partial matches. You had to put the keyphrases into your text in their original, complete form or Google wouldn't understand what your page was about.

Some of what they used to grade a page's relevance on was how many times you included the keyphrase. (Keyword frequency is still a factor, but now it is the reverse: to ensure you don't over optimize your pages.)

But that was a long time ago. Now, Google has gotten very advanced. They are able to use synonyms and other elements on the page to determine what a page is all about. They don't have to rely on the shear use of repeated keyphrases any longer.

So, instead of always using blue suede shoes as-is (the entire, original keyphrase together), you can also use just blue and just suede and just shoes within the copy. This is precisely the SEO copywriting technique I've taught via my Step-by-Step Copywriting Course for years now. I'm glad to see Google confirm that I was right!

Straight from the horse's mouth

When asked whether we still had to use entire keyphrases in our copy, Matt clearly said no, "Keyphrases don't have to be in their original form." But then he went on to say, "If the [keyphrases] are on the webpage (not in a spammy way of course), that makes our job easier since we don't have to rely on synonym matches."

Basically, Matt means that you should still have the entire keyphrase (Samsung cellular telephone, for example) on the page once or twice. Then - in addition to that - also use the individual words/phrases within the original keyphrase: Samsung, cellular, telephone, etc.

Plus, you can also include synonyms if they apply. Cellular telephones are also commonly referred to as mobile phones or cell phones or smartphones so you might toss one or two of those into your copy for good measure as well.

Where do you put these keyphrases? The same places you usually would:

  • headline
  • subheads
  • ALT tags
  • anchor text
  • body copy
  • You name it!

But Matt cautioned several times during the interview not to overdo it. These words and phrases do absolutely need to be in your copy, but they should be there in a natural way.

As I've always said, "Never sacrifice the quality of your copy for the sake of the search engines." It's just not necessary. The next time you write a new page of copy test this approach to writing for the engines and see if you get as good (or better) results than before. I'm betting you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Stop struggling with copy that's not ranking or converting like you want. Get some help from Karon's Step-by-Step Copywriting Course today and watch how quickly your results improve.

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