Stop writing for the search engines by understanding what they really want
Ah Google. It’s changed the way we do so many things - mostly for the better. Unfortunately, it has made copywriting for the web confusing at best and ridiculous at worst as web writers try to figure out how to write for the search engines. Well, it's time to stop the insanity!
Understanding the why and how of Google search ranking
One of the most important things for web copywriters to keep in mind is this: Google did not invent its ranking system to create an elaborate game for web copywriters to figure out. Google wants the best, most relevant sites to appear at the top of its searches, so its customers (humans) can get what they want quickly and without being bothered by spammy tricksters. So first, look into your heart – are you trying to help your ideal customer find you more easily or are you trying to fool the search engine? Let your conscience be your guide.
I feel I should add a small disclaimer here: Google does not actually reveal how they rank sites. The following rules have been gathered from my years of experience writing web copy alongside some of the best web optimizers in the business.
Easily SEO your web copy using the following 4 steps:
1. Use the right number of relevant keywords
You should have at least four keywords (or keyword phrases) and no more than seven. They should all be relevant. That means that each of your keywords should appear at least once on the page you are writing. You can have different keywords for different pages, but it is best to keep them as consistent as possible, perhaps switching out only one keyword based on the page subject. Keyword selection is an art unto itself, and I will follow up with another blog post that goes into more detail later. [New SEO keyword blog posted here.]
2. Use keywords at the right density
This is the one that creates the most angst among copywriters. We do not want to sacrifice our pithy, witty, Clio-award-winning copy by cramming awkward keyword phrases onto the page. Relax, I am here to tell you that CRAMMING AS MANY KEYWORDS AS POSSIBLE INTO YOUR WRITING IS NOT JUST BAD WRITING, IT’S BAD SEO. Aim for 3-7% keyword density (this is actually hard to do if your keywords are good – see #1). Anything else will get flagged by Google as keyword spamming. You’re welcome.
3. Position and highlight keywords for best effect
Use your keyword as close to the top of the page as possible. Bold each keyword the first time you use it. Whenever and wherever possible, make the keyword a hyperlink to another page on your site. On a related note, stop using the words “click here” and “more” for hyperlinks. Hyperlink words in context for better SEO lift.
4. Create a title for each page, using your keywords
The title should be 60 characters including spaces. Alphabetize the keywords as much as possible without sounding silly - this page title will appear in the title bar at the top of your page, so visitors will be able to see it. Send the page titles to the web designer along with the web copy. They’ll know what to do with it.
Want to know more?
Of course there is a lot more to writing quality web copy than just using proper SEO techniques. In the near future I will be blogging about selecting SEO keywords and formatting copy for web readers. Be sure to register or sign up for the RSS feed from the Savvy B2B Marketing blog so you can get more tips as they come out.