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BACK TO BASICS: Keywords and Copywriting

BACK TO BASICS: Keywords and Copywriting

by: Susan Esparza, January 2005

The first rule of the web is content is king. Relevant and expert content that answers a question and fulfills the customer's need is the ultimate goal. Search engines rely on well-placed keywords and unique content to determine the expertness and relevance. Customers look for lots of good information and natural sounding text. Always write to serve your customer's need and keyword-rich copy will follow naturally. Customers come first. The engines are getting better at recognizing natural speech anyway so writing for them is a useless exercise.

There is no magical formula for writing the perfect copy, neither is there a mystical number of words that your copy should be. That said, it should be noted that copy less than 200 words probably doesn't contain enough information to really help a customer determine that the website will be able to solve their search.

Keywords

The first step to good copy is research. Brainstorm for possible keywords then go to Overture and Wordtracker to broaden that list further and to see which keywords are most competitive. (Wordtracker requires a subscription.) Pick 3-5 main keywords for your main index and landing pages. The rest of your pages should be even more tightly focused. Choose only 1 or 2 keywords for interior pages. Vary your keywords so they sound native to the content.

Get to the Point

Remember, people tend to scan text on the internet. Keep paragraphs short and direct. Give the facts as concisely as possible. Customers don't want to spend a long time reading if the webpage isn't going to satisfy their requirements. Tell your customers who you are, what your product is and why they should choose you over your competitors. Use lists, bold, and italicized text to direct your visitor's eyes to important words and concepts. Make sure you use <strong> and <em> tags instead of <b> and <i> because the spiders recognize the first set as important and not the second.

Stop Words

There are many words that the search engines simply ignore because they are so common. They don't contribute to any meaningful content but they are absolutely essential. Words like a, the, at, to will, this, about and with are all stop words that help dilute your text and make it sound more natural. Though the search engines do not count them, writing without stop words turns your page to gibberish. Ranking #1 for your keyword is worthless if your potential customers do not stay to buy your product or service. Remember the rule is always to write for your customers first and the search engines second.

The Do's and Don'ts

  • DON'T force keywords into your copy if it doesn't sound natural.
  • DO write for humans, not spiders.
  • DON'T use wordy, convoluted sentences to explain yourself.
  • DO be clear and direct.
  • DON'T use duplicate copy. You will be penalized.
  • DO write unique, informative content that will show your customers they are in the right place.
  • DON'T pick keywords solely because of their activity numbers.
  • DO research on Overture and Wordtracker to determine the most relevant keywords with acceptable activity accounts. Unless the keyword is extremely targeted, 100/month should be the lowest activity.