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Copy writers play a role in successful search engine marketing campaigns…

Best Practices for Copy Writers

SEO Best Practices for Copy WritingWriting great copy is a creative art form. A well-crafted paragraph of text that conveys your message with exactly the right call to action (CTA) is something to behold. You recognize great copy when you see it! But, what if this great copy is never seen? It happens all the time. One reason is because the copy does not reflect how consumers actually search for products and services. There is a fundamental mismatch between the terms used to search, and the terms used in a pitch. There are other reasons as well – most of them related to how search technologies actually work.

Search Behavior

You need to know how consumers find high-quality websites. Advanced keyword research helps you to completely understand how consumers are searching for your products. These buyer behavior models are important because they are statistically valid, and provide insight into the total search experience. A second important benefit is that advanced keyword research provides editorial focus and identifies preferred terminology for use in copy. In most search behavior models the top 25 terms appear in over 80% of the search traffic. These 25 terms provide a focused textual pallet for website and ad copy.

Nouns and Adjectives

In a well-crafted message every word counts – they are there to drive a conversion. However, consumers play to a different set of rules. 80% of the time they are just using nouns and adjectives to search, and just 2.4% of their search terms are verbs. To break it down a little, 70% of search terms are Noun-Noun phrases, while 8% are Adjective-Noun phrases. Bottom line, some words are more valuable than others – pay attention to your nouns and adjectives, and don’t sweat the verbs.

Label and Links

The phrases click here, learn more, sign up, contact us and about appear on every website on the planet. You and I know what it means, but the search engine assigns no relevancy value to this text. Sometime real estate constraints dictate that you use these as is, but if you have some flexibility try to place some context around these labels. For example:

Text in Images

If you rely upon an image to convey a text message or to function as a navigational device, you can make it easy for the crawler to miss your intent – this happens all the time. You have three options open  to ensure that you provide the right information to the crawler. First, enable Alt Text, and replicate the text displayed in the image word-for-word. Second, use the file name to support the message – for example, 1966-Red-Porshe-Race.JPG. Third, if you use an image as a link, use the Anchor Text to provide more information about image intent. Read more about Image SEO.

Synonyms

Consumers often use anywhere from 3 to 6 different words to describe a single concept. In the following table (extracted from an AdWords dataset for the keyword Gifting) you see five synonyms being used in keyword phrases to describe the same concept – Baby. It’s worth understanding these relationships and the traffic associated with them when you are writing copy.

Page Text Density

When a search engine indexes your webpage, the only things that it can make sense of are the words in your page copy, and the words in tags and markup elements in your source code. It’s a technical fact of life that search engines work better if they have more text to work with. This means that for any particular page, a minimum density of text is required for the indexer to figure out what the page is about. This turns out to be about 200 words. Keep in mind that this includes all the words on the page such as navigational menus, side bars and other links.

The rule-of-thumb is that your primary keyword phrases should appear on the webpage from 6 to 14 times on a page with 200 words. This is from 3% to 7% of the total word count.

Cohesiveness of Message

In the following search result and the first body of text on the webpage (as defined by H1 tag) there are four elements at play here – the Title tag, URL string, Description tag and the H1 tag. Does the information defined in each of these elements hold together as a cohesive message when viewed by a searcher? In this example it does, the search term is QR Codes, and the document is about QR Codes.

Search Result

[Title Tag text] QR Codes

[URL string text] marksprague.wordpress.com/qr-codes/understanding-qr-codes/

[Description Tag text] Understanding QR Codes. This is a very comprehensive QR Code Primer that will provide you with a solid understanding of the technology – book mark it for…

Webpage 

[H1 Tag text] Quick Response Codes (QR) was developed by Denso Wave in 1994, and is now an ISO standard. They are in widespread use in Asia, have made great inroads in Europe, and are just starting to be used in the United States. The QR code reader technology ships with most cell phones in Asia, but this is not the case in the US. Consumers currently have to down load third-party applications to decode QR codes.

In the above example you have a cohesive flow of message starting with the Title Tag, and ending with the H1 tag.

  1. The Title tag states that the page is about QR Codes.Call Lexington eBusiness Consulting
  2. The URL string states that it is about Understanding QR Codes.
  3. The Description Tag states that it is a primer about QR Codes.
  4. The H1 tag introduces QR code subject matter.

The important issue here is that these text elements are often written independent of each other and end up presenting a fragmented message. Rule-of-thumb: Write all this copy at the same time to produce a cohesive flow of message.

Words in Titles Matter

Words in a document title are a powerful indicator of what the document is all about. This is why search engines allow people to search by Title. Every time you write a block of text that requires a label, you need to think how to include your keywords in the phrase. Just as the words in the first sentence are important in copy writing – the same holds true for search engines. Words at the beginning of a paragraph are more important than those at the end. Read more about other Search Relevancy Variables.

Mobile Copy

You should also think about how you are going to chunk your content for mobile consumption. A lengthy product description created for a desktop PC can be a painful viewing experience on a smart phone. Think of organizing the content into decks (like a Power Point presentation) where there is no horizontal scrolling and minimal vertical scrolling. The user navigates from slide to slide using jump links. Bottom line, mobile users prefer to see mobile optimized content. Best practices rules-of-thumb are:

  • Write for the mobile footprint – don’t blindly re-purpose your existing website.
  • Look at the search results on the mobile device to see how the Title and Description Tags render. There is less space available, so the Meta Tags from your corporate website will get truncated in search results.
  • Do not display text in a multi-column format in your mobile design, ever.

Read more about Mobile SEO.

Write Copy for People

Remember that when you write copy you actually have two audiences – those paying customers you want to attract, and search engines. Don’t write copy for search engines – that would be a mistake. If you are aware of how search technologies work, you can effectively target both without compromising the message to your website visitors. 

Final Advice – In the end, taking care of SEO copywriting fundamentals is important, but it won’t help much if you don’t create original engaging articles to read in the first place.

Other Resources for Copy Writers

“I’ve worked with Mark Sprague on many projects over the years from Green Tech to Pharma BI discovery. He brings solid expertise and experience to the entire website development process. This includes knowledge of UIX, SEO and Content Strategy.” Lynn Cyr, User Experience Designer.

Find Out More

If you are interested in finding out more about SEO and Search Technologies send me (Mark Sprague) an email at: Mark@MSprague.com, or call me now at: 781-862-3126

If you are interested in developing a Custom SEO Roadmap for your business, please get in touch to discuss your needs.

Lexington eBusiness Consulting

About Lexington eBusiness Consulting

Providing comprehensive SEO services to the Boston community…

Mark Sprague’s 25 years of product development experience, which includes expertise in Search Engines, Information Products, SEO platforms and Social Networking applications provide in-depth expertise to help you refine products and services, and improve your search engine marketing and websites performance by:

  • Developing a superior data-driven SEO strategy for your website.
  • Understanding your customers’ search behavior and normalizing it to your content strategy.
  • Understanding how search engine technology practically impacts SEO and content strategies.
  • Understanding how search technology impacts content in a social networking environment.
  • Developing a superior user experience based on sound information architecture, usability and coding standards.

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Mark Sprague,  CEO
580 Lowell Street
Lexington, MA 02420

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