It’s ironic: Search engine optimization/search engine marketing consultants are springing up all over the place, like dandelions in spring. Yet none of them seem to agree much on the best practices, methods and standards for optimizing Web sites.
As a result, I’ve found that the worst thing about optimizing my Web site for search engines, which I am doing now, is the often conflicting and even contradictory advice I get from the various SEO specialists I hire or talk with.
Go With Your Gut
One SEO consultant looked at the Web site for my freelance copywriting business, bly.com, and gave me very specific guidelines for writing a page about my freelance copywriting services, optimized for the keyword phrase “freelance copywriter.”
Specifically, his instructions were, “Freelance copywriter” should be:
- the first words on the page.
- included near the beginning of the first sentence.
- located near the end of the second paragraph.
- in a subhead between the second and third paragraph.
- located near the end of the third paragraph.
- in a subhead between the third and fourth paragraph.
- in the fourth paragraph.
- in the first sentence and at the end of the last sentence of the last paragraph.
The SEO consultant told me that following these specifications would result in a homepage search engines would like. But as a copywriter, I easily could see that any copy written to fully conform to these rigid guidelines would sound incredibly stilted and awkward, making me look incompetent. So I asked a few of my colleagues whether the above guidelines are in fact right or as nutty as I believed them to be.
“My advice is always to write for people, not search engines,” says copywriter Dianna Huff. “Yes, it’s good to place the correct keywords in the body copy, and yes, it’s correct to place your most important keyword at the beginning of the title tag and in the headline of the page.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.