Archive for the ‘Copywriting’ Category
By Karon Thackston © 2011, All Rights Reserved
Whether you’re a virtual assistant, copywriter, web design pro or search engine optimizer, keyword research is a useful and necessary service you can add to your lineup to make more money.
Anyone with a website or blog who aims to rank high in the search engines can benefit from professional-quality keyword research.
Why Would Others Pay You to Perform Keyword Research?
Because, as a trained professional, you will gather and evaluate data and make confident decisions. You won’t be an amateur who doesn’t understand the finer points of this craft and guesses at which terms are best to use where.
The issue lies in the fact that most people *think* they know how to conduct keyword research. Either that or they believe it solely depends on search counts. But because they haven’t been trained and they don’t stay on top of the latest developments, they aren’t aware of the little things that can make a huge difference.
For instance, did you know that Wordtracker presents annual search counts? Most people believe they deliver daily counts.
They did, years ago, but their website states (in several places) that the search totals displayed on their site are for a 365-day period. Just imagine if you incorrectly think you’re comparing daily Wordtracker results with monthly Google results? You’re research is going to be seriously flawed.
An Ongoing Source of Revenue
Conducting keyword research is not a one-time event. New products and services are coming out all the time. New ways to describe things are constantly developing. For instance, “search engine copywriting” has gotten several new names over the past few years. You now hear it called “SEO content writing” or “keyword optimization writing” among other things.
If search engine writers wanted to attract traffic from every possible source, they would need to continually research new keywords to optimize their website pages for. The same is true for every other industry. Here’s another example.
There are major differences sometimes in what keywords a company uses and which ones customers use. A client of mine manufacturers those big inflatable advertising balloons that are shaped like soda bottles or giant products. The company called these “cold-air inflatables” or other industry-related terms.
Their customers, however, used phrases like “giant advertising balloons” and so forth.
As you can see, there are numerous reasons your clients would need repeated keyword research, meaning you have an ongoing source of revenue IF you learn to do it right.
Is Keyword Research That Hard to Do?
Not when you know how :) The problem is, most people don’t take the time or spend the money to get professional training. If you aren’t shown the right way to conduct keyword research, you will almost certainly hang a hard left turn that takes you down the wrong path. If your research doesn’t produce results for your clients, you’ve wasted your time as well as your clients’ time and money.
Here’s what I recommend. It’s an ebook I wrote called “Demystifying Keyword Research.” No, don’t worry… it’s not a $100+ complicated ebook that will take you 6 months to read. In fact, it’s not for sale at all. But I will GIVE you a FREE copy.
Included in this ebook is everything you need to know to conduct professional-level keyword research, choose the best search terms for various web pages and more. It’s a mere 25 pages long, but don’t worry: I didn’t skimp on any of the information you need to know. I just took out all the fluff and boiled down the good stuff into an easy-to-understand, quick-read format.
How do you get your copy of Karon’s free keyword research guide?
Simply click to this page now
http://www.copywritingcourse.com/keywordreport.html and start creating a new and profitable source of income for your business.
By Karon Thackston © 2010, All Rights Reserved
It’s a common question. “What copywriting mistakes should I avoid?” There are many, but the 3 I chose might surprise you.
Why? Because while these can potentially cause the greatest amount of damage they are not ones most copywriters talk about.
Why? Because these aren’t the “sexy” copywriting mistakes. They aren’t the quick-fix aspects. They require thinking and judgment and… <gasp!>… work! However, they are the ones that – when implemented correctly – can drastically boost the performance of your copy and content whether that be a blog post, article, web page, email or other forms of text.
Copywriting Mistake #1 – Writing Without a Plan
Regardless of what you write, you’ll get better results if you perform due diligence with a little prior planning. In fact, if you go through the planning phase of copywriting, chances are the copy will all but write itself. How so?
Because research allows you the opportunity to get to know your target customer, organize your thoughts, outline features, benefits and end results, get your creative juices flowing, and much more. It also allows you to overcome what might otherwise become copywriting mistakes.
Take this article, for instance. When I started, I didn’t just lay fingers to keyboard and begin rambling on. I thought about the topic I’d like to approach. I looked into keyphrases that might be a good fit. (For this piece, I chose “copywriting mistakes” and “copywriting mistake.”)
Then, I gave some thought about what – specifically – I’d like to accomplish in the article. What, precisely, did I want to communicate to you? Those became the “3 copywriting mistakes”
mentioned in the headline as well as the outline for my writing.
All that was left to do was fill in the blanks.
The same applies to writing website copy. When you follow a process for outlining features, benefits and end results, researching keywords, and creating a skeleton of what the page should accomplish, it all falls into place much easier.
Copywriting Mistake #2 – Writing About Your Company/Product Instead of To Your Site Visitor
One of my biggest pet peeves – and one of the most common copywriting mistakes I see – is ignoring your site visitors.
Indulge me for a minute as I climb on my soapbox.
If someone walked into your office, shook your hand and asked how you could help them, you would not immediately begin to rattle off everything you believed to be a strong point about your product or company. No. What would you do? You’d start getting to know the customer.
You would ask questions. You would find out what their problems/challenges are. You’d get details on specifically what they want to do/accomplish and then you would address their exact issues.
Instead of “we do this and we do that and our company… let us help… we, we, us, us, our, our, our…blah, blah, blah” you would speak to the customer who is seated in front of you. Instead of “we-ing all over yourself,” you’d say something like this:
“Mr. Smith, you can get to where you want to go. It’s not as hard as you think. You can improve the image others have of your company and help reinforce your brand with a system that offers 3 important advantages. First, you’ll find that ____________________________….” You get the idea.
Does that mean you can never use “us” or “we” or “our?”
Certainly not! But keep it to a minimum. I’d venture to guess you should you those words less than 10% of the time. After all, it’s not about you… it’s about the ones who have the money: your customers.
Copywriting Mistake #3 – Thinking Copywriting Only Happens on Your Web Page
If you plan to write search engine optimized copy, you’ll have to understand that your copy actually begins in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The title tag and the META description tag create a little advertisement for you in Yahoo!, Google, Bing and the other engines.
Let’s say a surfer types in “black cowboy boots” (for example).
The very first exposure that customer has to your web page is what they find in the SERPs. Which of these tag sets grabs your attention?
Black Cowboy Boots – Black Cowboy Boots
Black cowboy boots are manufactured by all of the major cowboy boot makers. This most popular boot comes in various styles depending on your needs.
Black Cowboy Boots – Free Shipping and Return Shipping Buy cowboy boots with a price guarantee and top rated customer service. You can compare multiple … Dan Post Boots Eel Cowboy – Black (Men’s) $249.95 …
Western Spurs, Tshirts, Western Wear, Art, Posters Black Cowboy Boot with Spurs keychains • Black Cowboy Boot with Spurs Key Chain by White_Wedding. praying cowboy pet clothing • praying cowboy dog shirt …
I don’t know about you, but I’d be clicking that free shipping one with the price guarantee!
You have to write your title tag and META description tag as an advertisement. Tell the surfer why they should click to your page as opposed to the other 10,000 in the SERPs. What’s in it for them if they click to you?
So, now you know. And now that you know, you can avoid making the 3 most deadly copywriting mistakes small business owners make.
Are you looking to revamp or build a small business website but aren’t sure where to start? Karon’s book Effective Websites for Small Businesses helps you work with professional to make it happen. Learn more at http://www.EffectiveWebsitesForSmallBusinesses.com.
By Karon Thackston © 2011, All Rights Reserved
It has become a fundamental principle of Internet marketing. When sending a prospect from some form of trigger (banner ad, pay-per-click ad, tweet, etc.) to the landing page, there must be continuity: the message must flow.
For example, when constructing pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, there has to be continuity between the ad and the landing page. The use of the same keyphrases, copy that flows seamlessly from ad to landing page and other factors can make or break your campaign. If these elements aren’t in place the disconnect your visitors will suffer will confuse them and send them packing.
Why then do we rarely see any consistency in these areas when writing search engine optimized (SEO) copy?
Create Links in a Chain
On most web pages the tag sets are scattered. Take note the next time you’re surfing. You’ll see title tags that are unrelated to the description tag, both of which are distant from the headline of the copy on the actual page, etc., etc., etc. There is no flow. Nothing exists to usher the prospect from one step to the next.
It should work just like links in a chain. One is directly connected to the next and so forth. The basis of writing organic SEO copy is developing and following the same topic from your visitor’s first exposure to your site (the organic Google/Bing/Yahoo! listing title) to the call-to-action on the web page itself. It should – in essence – work exactly like the process when writing a paid ad/landing page combo.
Take it One Step at a Time
Create a plan before you write pages with optimized copy. Don’t view it with tunnel vision; strictly from the standpoint of what’s happening on the page. Take it one step at a time and walk the path your prospects will walk.
- Where will the site visitor come from? An organic search engine listing.
- What’s the first exposure to your site? The title tag of the organic listing.
- If the title tag captures their attention, where will they look for more information? The description tag underneath the title tag.
- When they click to your web page, how will they know they are in the right place? The message (copy) and keyphrases will be carried through from the search engine results page (SERP) to the web page.
See how it works? With each glance, with each click, the visitor takes a new step toward conversion. That’s because, just like with paid marketing campaigns, you’ve laid out a clear path for your prospects to follow rather than forcing them to navigate a rocky and confusing road.
When you’re ready to write expert-level copy that boosts rankings & converts more visitors get Karon’s Step-by-Step Copywriting Course (5th edition) and learn to do it right. http://www.CopywritingCourse.com
By Karon Thackston © 2011, All Rights Reserved
As I read her email I could literally feel my blood pressure rising. She’d heard me speak at a webinar I did for Wordtracker about ecommerce copywriting where I said keyword density hadn’t been a factor in SEO copywriting for years. The lump in my throat got bigger as Zoe (not her real name) explained why she thought the myth about keyword density simply wouldn’t die.
“Keyword density is going to remain a hot (contentious) topic. I just read an article in the “New Yorker” yesterday about the new AOL CEO: “Can Tim Armstrong save AOL?” Apparently AOL is going to put greater focus on being content providers. Here’s an excerpt from page 36:
‘The writing, too, is often designed to appeal more to search engines than to readers. In the list of “contributor resources”
for Seed, the most prominent category is for “search engine optimization”–S.E.O.–the process of packing stories with words that will make them appear higher in the list of results that Google and Bing display when users search for terms related to the subject. Seed links to guidelines that instruct writers to pay attention to what is called “keyword density”: the number of times that certain phrases appear in a story as a percentage of total words in a piece. If you’re writing a story on herbal tea, you should use that phrase early and often.’
“So, while I’ve read articles by plenty of respected SEO experts who insist they’ve tested various keyword density models and it doesn’t correlate with returns, I have to say I’ve read at least as many articles like this that still bang the keyword density drum. Well you can see how the mixed messages can be frustrating.”
“Writing often designed to appeal more to search engines?”
“Packing stories with words?” Arrgg! Give me a break! Talk about old school. Keyword density has not been a valid measure of SEO copywriting success in probably 8-10 years now.
- Do you need to include keyphrases in your copy? Yes.
- Do you need to “pack” your copy with keywords? No.
- Does your content need to appeal more to search engines than
people. Absolutely not!
Yet, dreadfully, Zoe is right about one thing. There are still plenty of so-called experts out there that will swear to you copy must be written to a certain keyword density percentage. They’ll vow that this is the only way to write search engine optimized copy. To those who believe this, I say:
Oh Yeah? Prove It!
Have you ever tested it? Or are you just blindly following this outdated myth that refuses to die?
I can prove that keyword density is not an issue. Can you prove
- quantifiably show me in a measurable form – that copy must have a certain keyword density to rank high? I’m sure you’ve written pages that have a 2%, 5% or even 10% keyword density ratio, but what happens if you remove some of those phrases from the copy?
Does the ranking drop? Not in my experience.
In fact, clients have hired me to rewrite their previously awful-sounding copy to be more natural. While the former copy was not keyword stuffed, it did not flow very well at all.
Rewriting it without so many keyphrase mentions not only improved conversions, but also *increased* rankings.
When writing SEO copy for my clients, I never calculate keyword density and the pages rank consistently well.
From as far back as 2006, Matt Cutts (Google’s Antispam Chief) and other officials have stated that keyword density is a non-issue. Here are just a few quotes from Matt and Google.
2006: “I’d recommend thinking more about words and variants (the “long-tail”) and thinking less about keyword density or repeating phrases.” — Matt Cutts
2008: “Keyword Density: Not really a factor. Yes keyword should be present but density is not important. Include the keyword but make writing sound natural.” — Matt Cutts
2009: “As long as I’ve been at Google, keyword density has not been a core factor … in either the main site text, title tag or any of the other associated tags…” — Adam Lasnik speaking at Search Masters ’09
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhknZUEueKc (About 3:00 into
2010: “‘Keyword stuffing’ refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results. Filling pages with keywords results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.” — Google Webmaster Central
Please, PLEASE don’t just follow along with what the majority of people online are repeating. If you read interviews from AOL saying they instruct writers to use keyword density and you also read blog posts from reliable sources telling you not to subscribe to keyword density ratios, do your own testing. Find out for yourself who’s telling the truth.
Remember what your mother used to ask you: “If your best friend jumped off a 100-foot cliff, would you do it, too?” Honestly, whether we’re talking about SEO copywriting or not, following the crowd is usually the kiss of death. Keyword density is no exception.
When you’re ready to write expert-level website & SEO copy that doesn’t rely on myths and misconceptions, get Karon’s Step-by-Step Copywriting Course (5th edition) and learn to do it right. http://www.CopywritingCourse.com
By Karon Thackston © 2010, All Rights Reserved
After working for several years for a prominent, local veterinary practice that had multiple branches, Dr. Wendi Lily-Bare decided it was time to go out on her own. She arranged to purchase one of the smaller clinics which would allow her to keep the existing business name and equipment. However, the current website was not included in the bargain.
With an understanding of how important a high-ranking website is to a local, small business, Dr. Lily-Bare quickly began making plans for the creation of her online presence. Those plans included the use of copy (text) that connected emotionally with her site visitors and clearly showed them why they should choose Pet Friends over all the other available veterinary clinics in town.
Researching the Best Options for Keyphrases
As is the case with all search engine optimization (SEO) copywriting, the first step in the process of creating the Pet Friends site was to research the best keyphrases for use in the copy and tags.
These same keyphrases would also be used in developing the clinic’s local Google listing. This would allow Dr. Lily-Bare’s site to potentially come up in the “Local Business Results” section of Google whenever someone typed in a keyphrase related to one of her pages.
Being a local business in a relatively small town, we decided to work with general veterinary-related terms and attach what’s referred to as a “geo-modifier” to them. (Local businesses must include their specific location in order to weed out prospects that are outside their service area.)
Basically, we looked for keyphrases such as “veterinarian” or “veterinary clinic” and added the exact locale which, in this case, was Northeast Columbia, South Carolina. After compiling a list of good phrase candidates, we divided them up among the site pages.
Hook Prospects Right from the Start
While many people believe writing copy only applies to the individual web pages, there is actually another step that is just as important. Writing the title and description tags for each page is vital in securing that initial click.
What happens when you go to Google or another engine and conduct a search? You’re provided with a whole page full of possible websites that might meet your needs. How do you decide which ones to click? By reading the title and description of each site on the page.
Vets that have title tags which are bland (such as Veterinary Services, Vet in Baltimore, Pet Urgent Care) don’t do themselves any favors. There are ways to include keyphrases and still make a connection with your prospects. For instance, Pet Friends’ Home page title tag reads:
Because They’re Family | Veterinary Clinic | Northeast Columbia, South Carolina (SC)
A keyphrase is there. The location is there. And there was still room for an emotional tweak at the beginning which helps to capture the attention of searchers. After all, if you can’t get them to click your title tag, it won’t matter much what you say on your Home page, will it?
Writing the Copy
If you’ve ever shopped at Walmart for toothpaste, you’re sure to understand the frustration of most online searchers. On the toothpaste aisle, you see dozens of choices. All clean your teeth. All freshen your breath. If you rule out the specialty toothpaste products (such as those for sensitive teeth or with extra whitening power that cost $8.00 a tube), then that leaves many left over. How do you choose?
The same dilemma applies when searching for a local vet. Go to most vet websites and you’ll find they talk about themselves instead of to the site visitors, they don’t give a clear reason to choose them over all the other vets, and they have no special features/services. Remove all the specialists and you’ve got a whole list of “just vets” to select from. How are you supposed to make an intelligent choice?
When it comes to toothpaste, most people default to a mindset of “they are all the same.” Unfortunately, most pet owners do likewise when searching for a new vet. We set out to make sure Pet Friends’ site visitors knew they were different.
The Home page headline set the tone: “Because They’re More Than Pets. They’re Family.” Rather than babbling on with company-focused copy, we shot an arrow into the heart of every pet-owning site visitor that landed on the Home page. Rather than displaying the same old list of standard services that every other vet had on their Home page, we played on the fact that pets are family members in every sense of the word. The copy clearly relayed a message that Pet Friends’ staff members were all pet owners and pet lovers who saw your cat or dog in a very “human” light.
Because this was a brand-new site, there was no benchmark for comparison. Nonetheless, measuring results wasn’t hard since they came so quickly and were so obvious.
Within days of launching the new copy, Pet Friends’ site had worked its way up to top 20 rankings for many search terms. Within a couple of weeks, at least half of the terms ranked in the top 10.
Now, several months after launch, Pet Friends’ site has page-one rankings for all but two of their 18 preferred keyphrases.
According to Dr. Lily-Bare, “We write on every new patient’s chart how they found out about us. I always check when I’m looking over their chart. We’ve gotten a lot of new patients from people who have found us through Google and other search engines. It’s an excellent way to advertise that continues to pay off month after month.”
Karon Thackston gives more exceptional insights into web & search engine copywriting in her book “Effective Websites for Small Businesses.” Find out the importance of copywriting when you need to build a small business website. Check it out today at http://www.EffectiveWebsitesForSmallBusinesses.com.
Interesting post on dot.life on the BBC News site. Someone in the UK is claiming intellectual property rights to the hashtag ‘#uksnow’. Now realizing that the patent office allows patenting life (anyone see ‘Food Inc’?) why wouldn’t they allow patenting this mark? Can you imagine every time you wanted to use a hashtag you had to worry whether someone had patented it first? What about if you built on a tag, such as #uksnowing – is it a new tag or an extension of an existing tag?
Would the large corporations start buying up patents and enforcing them, forcing the small guys into line through the treat of lawsuits?
Pretty soon you wouldn’t be able to write anything on twitter in case it violated a patent, then what? People move to other services, Twitter dies, the corporations have made their profit and the fat cats have got paid (anyone see Crooked E?).
Makes me glad to work as an SEO where we only have to worry about world domination by Google (Google Phone anyone?)
By Karon Thackston © 2009, All Rights Reserved
Sometimes choosing which company to buy from is about like deciding which brand of canned peas is the best. To make matters worse, the copy on most websites doesn’t offer any help.
There are three major offenders in copywriting that I see constantly on the Internet. The first is generic copy that offers no specific differentiation points — in other words, reasons why the visitor should choose you instead of the thousands of other sites that are just a click away. The second is overused fluff copy that has no substance. And the third? Using company-focused copy (“we” and “us”) instead of customer-focused (“you” and “your”). It’s the third offender I want to address in this article.
I am literally shocked that — after decades of marketing evangelists preaching “It’s not about you!” — website owners still don’t get it. What’s not to understand? Copy that focuses strictly on your company and practically or completely ignores your prospects doesn’t work nearly as well as copy that speaks to your target customers in their language and about the benefits they will receive.
I discussed this very topic with SEO friend Jill Whalen recently, and she commented, “I think people don’t understand how to write to the customer instead of about their company.” Perhaps my cohort is right. So, in an effort to educate, let’s look at several before and after scenarios.
Company-Focused Copy Examples
It’s as if this web design firm has intentionally made an effort to ignore their site visitors. They use their company name, “the client,” “customers,” and practically every other word to describe who is reading the page. Except, that is, the most
important: you. You must address the one, single person who is reading your web page at any given moment, not a collective population of people.
ABC Web Design is dedicated to customer service. We make great strides to offer high levels of customer service and communication with clients. As a small company, we understand one-on-one service is needed. Our designers have developed hundreds of small-business websites and we make the process simple. Contact us for pricing and a free consultation today.
Do you see that not a single “you” is used? The site visitor is never addressed. It’s all about the company. Now let’s change it to be about the customer:
ABC Web Design is dedicated to your success, promising high levels of customer service and communication. You’ll be kept up to date — on a one-to-one basis — about the progress of your project. Relying on years of experience, your web designer makes the creation process simple, guiding you through every step.
Contact us for pricing and a free consultation today.
Here’s another example.
We have the finest contractors in the marketplace today. Our kitchen experts have been recruited from the most successful companies. XYZ Kitchen Remodeling Company of Kalamazoo has the support of a large network with over 300 reliable and professional kitchen remodeling contractors serving most of North America.
Here’s the rewrite:
When you want to work with the finest contractors in the marketplace, XYZ Kitchen Remodeling Company of Kalamazoo answers the call. Not only will you benefit from using experienced kitchen experts, your renovation is backed by the support of the largest network of kitchen remodelers. That gives you the knowledge and skills of over 300 reliable, professional kitchen remodeling contractors in North America.
See the difference? Is it a sin to use the words “us” or “our”? Certainly not, but your copy should be weighted far more heavily with customer-oriented words than company-focused ones. Tell visitors about your service, your results and your experience.
But do so in a way that makes them and their success the center of the copy.
When you keep the focus on your company, you prevent your target customer from knowing the benefits they’ll reap after working with you. However, when you adjust your focus, you shine a bright light helping visitors to quickly see why you’re the best choice for them.
Karon Thackston creates customer-focused copy that connects and converts. If you’re struggling with copy that doesn’t perform, contact Karon today through http://www.MarketingWords.com for online copywriting or copywriting training.
By Karon Thackston © 2009, All Rights Reserved
During a recent copywriting consulting call with a new client, we discussed her primary concern: having good traffic, but no sales. I’ve seen this a thousand times before. Usually, what I find is a site filled with content that is chock-full of keyphrases and sounds stupidly repetitive. The solution is easy:
Write natural-sounding, persuasive SEO copy that entices customers to buy. But this client’s site didn’t fit the stereotype.
The home-page copy needed some work, but it wasn’t awful. The category and sub-category pages had no copy at all that needed to be fixed. The product descriptions were canned (straight from the manufacturer). While that’s definitely not the best way to go for several reasons, it’s not a death sentence. But still, for a site
- even a brand-new one – to have several hundred unique visitors a week and not one sale was frustrating.
We looked at some stats. Low bounce rate, high number of pages viewed per visit, acceptable length of time spent on the site.
The rankings left something to be desired, but they’d come along soon enough with a few tweaks and some linking.
As we clicked our way through the site’s pages, it became clear.
This site suffered from a common curse among e-commerce
resellers: lack of differentiation.
Why Should I Buy From You?
Generally speaking, most grocery stores carry nearly the same things. So how did you decide to shop at the one you frequent most? Chances are it was because of the store’s location. Online, we don’t have that advantage.
When e-commerce resellers carry the same exact items as hundreds or thousands of other sites, comparison shoppers have a difficult time deciding whom to buy from. Most often, it falls to price.
Since my client wasn’t branding her site to be the cheapest, she had lost the location and the price advantage.
After searching through dozens of websites offering the same products, the surfer had no way to answer their most burning
question: Why should I buy from you?
Identifying Differentiation Points
As our tour continued, I asked questions – lots of questions – in an effort to help my client find ways she was different and/or better than her competition.
> > Do you offer free shipping or reduced shipping (with or
without a minimum order)?
She did, but that wasn’t stated visibly on her site. There’s one differentiating item. Online shoppers love free shipping.
> > Do you hold any promotions?
She did, but that also wasn’t clearly stated. She made a note to draw attention to her promotion on the home page.
> > Do you offer quantity discounts?
She did, but the link to the copy that explained the discounts was rather hidden. We discussed adding a few words of copy right by the price to let visitors know discounts were available.
> > Can you tell me about the wish list feature? What happens
after someone adds products to their wish list?
She didn’t know, so we went through the process together and created a plan for strategically placed copy that would entice visitors to add items to their wish lists. We then discussed the particulars of creating copy for an autoresponder series that would follow up with people who had created a wish list, but never ordered.
When our hour was up, we had identified several actionable steps for her to work on to differentiate her site from her competitors. Of course, they’ll all need to be tested to see which works best to achieve her goals. But for now she’s busy tweaking and tracking instead of scratching her head.
Karon Thackston is an SEO copywriter and trainer. She has authored 3 popular books including the keyword optimization guide “Writing With Keywords.” Get details at http://www.WritingWithKeywords.com today.
By Karon Thackston © 2009, All Rights Reserved
Following in the footsteps of Rand Fishkin and Guy Kawasaki, I decided to come up with my own list of don’ts.
There is no shortage of don’ts when it comes to SEO copywriting.
It seems this niche got off to a rough start many years ago when early comers somehow misconstrued the core principles of the trade. Allow me to elaborate on how not to write SEO copy.
- Don’t shove as many keyphrases into the copy as humanly possible. It’s not about the sheer volume of search terms you include. Yes, Google and other engines should be able to follow what the page is about. Yes, engines are looking to match a searcher’s query with search engine optimized content on your web pages, but which pages land at the top is decided through a series of calculations far more complex than any simple ratio.
When you overload copy with keyphrases you sacrifice quality and user experience.
- Don’t lose site of balance. If SEO copywriting isn’t about the percentage of keywords within the copy, then what is it about? Balance. You have two audiences with SEO copywriting: the search engines and your site visitors. But surprisingly, the balance doesn’t come with serving both masters well. The balance comes in how much you cater to the engines. You see, your site visitors always come first. However, if you write with too little focus on the engines, you won’t see good rankings. If you put too much focus on the engines, you’ll start to lose your target audience. Balance… always balance.
- Don’t let someone else choose the keywords. If keyword research isn’t a service you offer, an SEO firm, keyword specialist or some other professional that your client hires will have to conduct the research. Don’t just accept keyphrases these folks toss your way. Ask to see the entire list with recommendations as to which terms would be best strategically.
Then you, as the professional writer, can decide which will also work best within the copy.
- Don’t sacrifice flow for numbers. This is a follow-up to number three and is a major issue with bad SEO copywriting.
SEOs or clients sometimes insist on using hacked-up search phrases that simply don’t work in a normal sentence. An example?
“Candies samples free.” Many copywriters will just grin and bear it, sacrificing quality and flow for the sake of competitive values or other numbers. The result is often some obnoxious sentence like, “If you’re looking for candies samples free, you’ve come to the right place!” Forcing a phrase into the copy at all costs never turns out well.
- Don’t use keyphrases that don’t apply to the page. If you operate a site about wedding receptions, don’t try to force a search term about wedding dresses into the copy just because it pulls a lot of traffic. (A) Unless you sell, alter or design wedding dresses, it won’t be applicable. (B) Even if you manage to get the page ranked well for the phrase [wedding dresses], once the visitor clicks to your site and realizes you have nothing to do with wedding dresses, they will leave. It’s a waste of time and effort and it creates a poor user experience.
- Don’t use misspellings and correct spellings on the same page. I fully understand that the misspellings of keyphrases can be valuable search terms. However, to mix correct spellings and misspellings within the same page of copy looks like you’ve got a bunch of typos in the content. It’s just not professional.
Some writers will go for the old, “We rent limousines (sometimes spelled limosenes) for the most affordable prices in town.” I don’t care for that approach. It’s just not natural.
Would you ever see brochure or newspaper copy that reads that way? I think not.
- Don’t use keyphrases the exact same way every time. This is how we end up with horrible SEO copy that sounds like a 4th grader wrote it. (See #4.) There are lots of ways to use keywords in copy, not just one. In order to sound natural, you have to get creative with your keyphrase use. One way is to break up phrases using punctuation. Since search engines don’t pay attention to basic punctuation marks, you can easily write something using the search term [real estate Hawaii] that reads like this: “Currently there is an impressive selection of available real estate. Hawaii listings can be…” See? “Real estate” is at the end of the first sentence and “Hawaii” is at the beginning of the second sentence. The engines ignore the period so there’s no problem.
- Don’t use all types of search phrases for every situation.
There are many ways in which this “don’t” applies. One quick example is that of an ecommerce site. It wouldn’t be advisable to use specific, long-tail keyphrases on the home page of your site. They are much too specific in most cases and are better suited for individual product pages. Broader terms are typically best for an ecommerce home page. If you don’t understand the best applications for the various types of keywords, you’re likely to have lackluster results.
- Don’t neglect ALT tags/image attributes. These tags are the ones associated with images on your pages and they carry a good deal of weight especially if the image is used as a link. The ALT text counts the same as anchor text in a text-based link.
Depending on a few different factors, ALT text may be a good place for those misspellings mentioned in #6.
- Don’t forget the chain of protocol. There’s a method to the SEO copywriting madness. The idea is not to get as many different keyphrases onto a page as possible. Just the opposite, in fact. Rather than having 12 different search terms used only one time each, you need to use two to four keyphrases (depending on the length of your copy) per page. The title, META tags, ALT tags, other coding elements and on-page copy need to support each other as far as keyphrase use goes. Your goal is to let the engines know that you have original, relevant content about a narrow topic.
Unless you have an exceptional number of back links built up, just mentioning [dark chocolate], [chocolate strawberries], [chocolate chip cookies], [chocolate cake], [chocolate desserts], [organic chocolate] and [chocolate cheesecake] once each on a web page isn’t likely to do a lot of good. Instead, pick two or three terms which are closely related and use them several times each along with mentioning them in your tags.
When you avoid making common mistakes, you’ll find your SEO copywriting flows much better, is more natural-sounding and ranks higher, too.
Need help with SEO copywriting? Karon has written 3 excellent books to help you learn keyword optimization techniques. Visit http://www.CopywritingCourse.com today and click to the Order page for details.
By Karon Thackston © 2009, All Rights Reserved
It’s a common complaint. Ecommerce site owners will contact me for help because their product pages don’t get ranked. Among one of my standard checks is their product copy. Very often, what I find is copy that was provided by the product manufacturers. Or, worse yet, copy that is the exact same for a variety of products with the exception of a few words. Both can cost you in the rankings.
Don’t Use Canned Copy
Using copy provided by product manufacturers may seem like the best way to go. After all, you get professionally written copy for free. However, there are two major drawbacks associated with this approach.
First, you lose most of your ability to differentiate yourself from every other website that sells the same products. If a person does a search, for example, on a particular model of Oster blender, he’ll likely find most websites have the same copy that was provided by Oster.
Since the product is the same and the copy is the same that leaves only a few options for proving to visitors why they should buy from you as opposed to any of the thousands of other sites that carry this blender.
When you use custom-created copy, you have the opportunity to entice them and show them why your store is the best choice.
On the SEO side, this is a classic case of duplicate content across multiple domains. What is commonplace these days is for one site that uses the canned copy to rank well while others are filtered farther down in the rankings. The top slots end up filled with review websites, blogs or other ecommerce sites that use original copy.
Don’t Use Copy That’s the Same but Different
Jewelry stores. Foreign language sites. Office furniture stores. There are countless types of sites that will often use the same product copy, but substitute a word or two. For instance, jewelry stores may have a particular ring setting that is available with rubies, diamonds or emeralds. They’ll use the same copy for all three rings, with the exception of the stone.
This elegant cocktail ring isn’t just for special occasions. The stunning 14 karat gold band is topped with a classic six-prong setting that cradles a top-quality diamond. This allows the diamond to reflect more light for a brilliant shimmer.
Then, for a ruby ring, the copy would read:
This elegant cocktail ring isn’t just for special occasions. The stunning 14 karat gold band is topped with a classic six-prong setting that cradles a top-quality ruby. This allows the ruby to reflect more light for a brilliant shimmer.
Personal experience has shown that these types of product descriptions may or may not get ranked well. This is not duplicate content across multiple domains; however, it still stands a chance of suffering the wrath of Google.
To get a clearer picture about this situation, I emailed Google know-it-all Matt Cutts and asked the question, “Is Google sophisticated enough to be able to tell when an ecommerce site has a need to use duplicate content for products that are the same but different? It seems as though you can from what I’ve noticed in the SERPs.”
Matt’s reply was a great big “maybe.”
“Typically on-site text doesn’t result in a penalty, just in the other copies of a page being filtered out. Only changing a single word (‘English’ to ‘Italian’) might not be enough though.
If someone has different products, usually it’s a good idea to make sure that the descriptions are at least somewhat different.”
Translation? Typically, if it’s duplicate content on different pages of your own site, and not across multiple domains, one of the product descriptions will rank well, and the rest will be filtered out of the search engine results pages (SERPs). I’ve seen this happen a good bit for exact duplicate content when every word is precisely the same.
Changing one word means the content isn’t an exact duplicate anymore. However, Matt cautions that just altering a single word (diamond to ruby, etc.) may not be enough of a difference to save your products from being filtered. I’ve seen product pages that have only changed one or two words get filtered about 50% of the time.
Safest bet? Do what Matt recommends and use product copy that is significantly different for each item. Original copy gives you the freedom to entice your site visitors, differentiate yourself from the competition and rank high in the search engines.
Karon Thackston is an SEO copywriter specializing in ecommerce websites. Need help boosting conversions and rankings? Visit http://www.marketingwords.com today.