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SEO 101 - Part 11: Everything You Need to Know About SEO Copywriting

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.
No SEO is complete without good content. You can stuff keywords into the text all you want, and that might be okay to get you some decent keyword rankings for a time, but it won't do anything to improve the long-term success of your business.
A website without good copywriting is a sports car with an engine that doesn't run. It doesn't matter how pretty it is, the content is what is needed to provide your visitors the information they need in order for you to make the sale (or conversion, or whatever else you want your visitors to do.)
Understanding Copy
Understanding Copy
To the search engines the content on the page is just a bunch of words. Without making this too complex, the engines analyze the words in an attempt to determine what each page is about. If the web page covers too many different topics then it makes it difficult for the engines to determine which topic is prominent and deserves ranking. It creates a dilution of focus.
The search engines have analyzed millions of web pages and from that have been able to gather significant knowledge of the human languages. They have an idea of how words and topics work together. It's not really about the number of times a keyword is used but the focus of the content. If you use a word or phrase too much then it'll be seen as manipulation. Too little and it's not enough to be relevant. Write as much or as little text as is needed in order to make the point you need for your visitors.
Draw Them In
Draw Them In
SEO copywriting isn't all that different from normal copywriting except that you have to pay particular attention to keywords. Actually, non-seo copywriting would be better if keywords were paid attention to anyway. Not for search engines per se, but in order to use the key phrases that attracts and appeals to the readers. In that light, SEO copywriting and "normal" copywriting would be no different.
There are four basic things that the content of each of your web pages must do, regardless if its the home page, a category page, a product page, an article or a blog post.
Grab Attention
If the reader hits the page and the content is unable to get and keep their attention, then all is lost. They move on to another page or another site and you lost the possibility of a conversion.
Appeal to their Needs
Once you have their attention then you have to make your case. The simplest way to do that is to appeal to them on their terms. You already have what they want, but you have to write your content that shows them you understand their needs.
What motivated them to search for what you offer? By clearly re-iterating the need, you are then in a position to show that you have the solution. Go into great detail on why your solution is the right one and then move on to explain all the benefits of selecting you as that solution.
Ask questions
Questions make people think. Often times asking a question first and then providing an answer is far more effective than just providing an answer. Question make your readers consider what they are reading and then seek an answer to a question that they didn't even know they had.
What kind of questions should you ask? Just go back to the basics. Who? What? When? Why? Where? How? Each of these can provide an avenue for a good amount of additional information that may be important to the reader.
Finally, your content must inform. The visitor has to walk away having learned something valuable. And not just about you or your product or service, but about them as well. The visitor needs to know that you have exactly what they need and you must provide enough information to justify making a purchase from you both intellectually and emotionally.
Ways to inform are to show how your product or service can make their lives better, give them more time, money or freedom. You can also give them ideas on how to use your product or service which gives them additional incentives to make the purchase.
Five Rules of Copywriting
Five Rules of Copywriting
There are five basic rules to writing good website content that is appealing to both visitors and the search engines.
1. Avoid graphics in text.
Search engines are not so good about reading text in a graphic format. They are getting better at it but I think that it will always be problematic, especially when it comes to busy graphics or non-standard fonts. So for now, and the foreseeable future, it's a good idea to keep your text outside of graphics.
You also have to consider the user. Some users search with images off or the small screens of their mobile phones. Text in those graphics may be difficult or impossible to read. If the content is worth reading then it's worth ensuring that it is in the most readable format.
2. Think users before engines.
Your visitors come first. The search engines don't buy from you, they don't write comments, and they don't retweet your message. People do. The search engines only want what people want so give the people what they want and the search engines will, in most cases, reward you for that.
3. Write enough content.
How much content is enough? Only you know that. You need to write enough content to make the points you need and no more. Each visitor needs a different amount of content to read in order to be convinced. don't leave anybody out.
4. Target phrases not words.
People rarely search for words, they search for phrases. Knowing what those phrases are is essential to writing content that speaks to your visitor's desires. The phrases also put the words into context and give meaning to what the visitor is really searching for.
5. Don't force it.
Writing your content using the rules above should work naturally. Don't force anything if it just doesn't work. If you're trying to work in phrases that are not a fit for the page, then move those phrases to another page. If you're trying to produce content that will speak to different kinds of visitors, don't be afraid to break content off into other sections of the site such as articles or tutorials. This goes back to writing for the visitor. Meet their needs first and foremost and don't try to force anything that doesn't work.
As I said above, SEO copywriting isn't all that much different than standard copywriting. It's all about creating good content that appeals to the visitors and meets certain criteria in terms of keyword usage. In Part 12 I'll go over some key examples of how to write good content that is good for engines and users alike.

(Author: Stoney deGeyter)