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Copywriting 101 for Search Engine Optimization

By: Lisa Barone, Bruce Clay, Inc., March 2006

The first rule of the web is that content is key. Your website lives and breathes on your ability to write compelling, targeted copy. Effective copywriting helps increase conversions by keeping clients on your site, differentiates you from your competition and gives you an edge with the search engines. With SEO Copywriting, not only do you have to write expert content that will appeal to your reader, but you also have to make it appeal to the search engines. This includes using targeted keywords to effectively deliver your message. Not sure how to do that? Well then, keep reading!

What exactly is SEO Copywriting?

Search Engine Optimization Copywriting (SEO Copywriting) is the art of writing text so that it reads well for your audience, while still appealing to the needs of the various search engines. If your site text is missing the terms commonly searched-upon by users in the search engines you won't get the rankings you want. However, if you stuff your text with keywords and forget about your customers' needs, you'll be considered a spammer and get booted from the engines. So how do you make everyone happy?

You create genuine content pages that include just enough prominent key terms to appeal to the engines. Effective SEO copywriting is important for companies because it increases the chance their content will be seen by the search engines and the customer, thereby increasing both traffic and conversions.

The Upside-Down Triangle

Remember in high school when your English teacher taught you all about the inverted pyramid? Well, it's time to dust it off. When constructing your text, keep the image of that upside-down triangle (tip pointed downwards) in mind. The base of the triangle should represent your most important content (for example, your SEO keywords!), while the tip should include the details or the least important information. Using the inverted pyramid, also known as the upside-down triangle, method is important because it helps present a clear summary of what you will be discussing to the reader. Based on this information the reader will determine if they are interested in reading the entire text. Putting your SEO keywords within the first 200 words of your text will increase your chances of piquing their interest and make you a friend of the search engines.

Short Sentences, Lots of Content

There is no magical formula for writing the perfect copy, nor is there a mystical number of words that your copy should be. However, most search engine optimization experts recommend around 250 to 500 words per page, with one to four targeted search terms strategically placed within the text. The more keywords you try to stuff on a page the more you risk your page sounding awkward and unnatural. This should be avoided at all costs.

When constructing your page it is important that you keep the reader's needs in mind. Most Internet readers will scan a page looking for keywords. They will only stop to read the content if they see something that strikes them. Keep your sentences short and direct, but don't skimp on the content, the more content the better! Instead of writing an endless column of text, write short paragraphs and utilize a lot of white space. Remember to use bullet points, bold and italicized text for emphasis. Doing so will make it easier for the reader to spot key points.

Know and Utilize Keywords

Research is key. Know your keywords before you start writing your content. It will be much easier to create effective copy from the start than to go back and try to stuff keywords into already written text. Doing so will often make your text sound awkward and forced, causing it to lose all readability.

Most SEOs typically recommend using one to three keywords per page. It is believed that search engines generally give more weight to the first 200 words within a page. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that keywords are used appropriately near the top of the page and proportionally throughout the page. Also, don't forget to use keywords in your headlines. Most search engines deem a headline to be one of the most important sections of the copy. Including text in your headline will give it additional weight for search engine optimization.

For a more extensive review of keywords: How to Choose Keywords, How to Use Keywords

Update, Update, Update!

Finished? Think again. Your reader and the search engines have one fundamental thing in common: they love content -- especially when it is updated and relevant. There are few things more effective in promoting your site than regularly updating that site with fresh copy. Frequent updates will help your company to solidify its Internet presence and keep customers happy and coming back, as well as helping you with the search engines. Regular updates will cause it to be regularly spidered by the search engines and lead to higher rankings.

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