Guidelines For SEO Copywriting – Help For Clients

Hunting for information on the web is a minefield. This is especially true of anything related to search engines and SEO. It’s a moveable feast. Google and the rest like to keep us on our toes. One by-product is that the criteria for producing search engine-friendly content changes.

How It Used To Be

For years much of the SEO community promoted what amounts to a ‘template’ for the placement of keywords on pages. This type of template persisted for many years because it worked..but in the wrong hands it made for some clumsy writing because some people wrote mainly for search engines rather than human visitors. This is no longer the way to write content for the web.

Be Natural And Relevant

The problem is that not only has Google changed but rules can no longer be applied in an absolute way. When considering how to rank it’s the relative picture that’s important. Not only must you know the right keywords, but knowing where to include them is no longer a matter of including them repetitiously in every possible place. Today’s watch words, confirmed by Google’s Matt Cutts is ‘natural’ and ‘relevant’. The question is, what does this really mean?

Diversity

You can still see sites ranking using the old ‘template’ style formula. But what’s new is the number of sites ranking who don’t include the target keyword phrase. They may include elements of the phrase in different locations or pseudonyms. This has been noticeable for years – I’ve seen it with my own sites but is now more prevalent. It’s a reminder that other factors contribute to the ranking too. Only Google knows how many ranking factors exist.

For any keyword there are a bunch to sites that get top Google rankings. In 2012 different sites rank for different reasons. So gone is a first page filled with identikit pages written around the same word. Now we have more diversity and hopefully better quality. But the important thing to note is there’s more than one way to rank in the top 10 for a keyword.

The New Rules of SEO Copywriting

If template style content is largely a thing of the past, what has replaced it? Well as noted above there is more diversity in the pages which is why some tools are helpful to determine the on and off page elements needed to rank. Keyword research is still essential, although how you do that research may have changed. Here’s my take on writing natural and relevant content.

One Keyword Per Page

Pages must focus on one main keyword or more likely a phrase. You don’t need to have the words that make up the phrase in the traditional format but it’s helpful. After all any clues you can include to help Google do. It used to be the case that you were encouraged to ‘support’ keywords with other words or phrases but today this is likely to cause confusion. Google is ploughing a furrow to make money from as much of search as possible. This includes encouraging more website owners to use Adwords. Allowing a page to rank for one rather than 2 words is good business sense from its point of view.

Use Different Types Of Keyword

Even once you have identified relevant keywords you’re not finished. Consider how you use the internet to research then buy something. An online purchase isn’t a linear process. Visitors may come to your site 4 or 5 times before taking action. This means you need different types of keywords that satisfy different needs. Don’t be fooled into thinking keyword tools have all the answers.

Density And Placement

Keyword density is still important but don’t follow the traditional template in full. Titles, urls and subheadings may look quite different. In the good old days you were encouraged to have you keyword density higher for titles and headings. This is now a no-no although it varies widely. Doing my own research I find that the target phrase or word may not even appear in page titles.

Write For Your Visitor

Write for your visitor – Google is watching and taking account of how your visitors react to your pages. Don’t have awkward phrases or even nonsensical sentences. These are attempts to shoehorn in the requisite number of keyword phrases. Stop. Don’t do it. This also extends to Titles. Above all else you want to get the click and you want visitor to stay on the page. Engaging your reader is the main aim of good copy.

Length Matters

Don’t skimp on page length. A guidelines of a 300 word length much bandied about isn’t that helpful. In some of the sectors I’ve been looking at pages are a minimum of 1000 words long. The ideal length will depend on the keyword you’re targeting.

External Links Are OK

Don’t be afraid to link externally to reputable / authority sources. In the bad old days site owners were worried that they’d lose visitors if they posted external links on pages. It’s always a risk but if your pages are good people will come back. The new and more important point is that if you reference quality sites Google will make some inferences about the quality of your page. Simply linking out to friends or any old link partner isn’t the answer.

Organisation and Presentation

Plagiarism or duplicate content continues to carry penalties although Google is getting smarter about being able to determine the source of the original content. You will have heard of the phrase ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. Often it’s the information’s treatment that makes it unique rather than the subject matter. How you organise and present information can make your content original.

Summary

If the traffic has dropped to your website or blog there’s generally only 2 areas to examine. The link profile or the content. If your content is ‘old style’ it may be worth refreshing it. Chances are your competitors may already be on top of the issue. Anyone can check by carrying out searches on Google for keywords and analysing the results returned for the first page.

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