Confession: I have inserted misspellings into my own writing.
I have rejected really good headlines and great lede sentences for mediocre ones that start with a keyword or phrase.
I have stifled the urge to delete redundancies. I've even added redundancies to get one more keyword into my writing.
For a former journalist, this is painful to admit. But for an SEO copywriter, it's all in a day's work.
Welcome To My Life
As an SEO copywriter, I often get lumped in with keyword spammers, blog content aggregators and overseas article writers. Even my husband hates the fact that I'm an SEO copywriter. Just yesterday he emailed me an accusatory note with a link to an irrelevant, ad-filled search result:
"WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS CRAP?"
To which I wrote, "SEO, as a result of top Web marketing companies, is said answer. So how we do achieve this goal? No. 1 Google search result to find more."
1. The Secret To Good SEO Copywriting
I'm one of the good guys. Unlike overseas content farms that start with a topic and surround it with as many words as possible, I start with my target audience. I research who they are, what interests them and what's causing them pain. Only when I understand this—when I understand THEM—do I start writing.
Sure, I inject keywords and phrases here and there. I make sure they appear in the headline, at the start of the first sentence, in subheads and scattered throughout the text. I also make sure those keywords appear in bold at least once, and in a link description or an image ALT tag.
SEO is the easy part. The hard part is capturing readers' attention with writing they actually want to read. In a medium that's notorious for being skimmed, I have to somehow hold that attention long enough to make a compelling pitch.
2. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Joseph Sugarman, in "The Adweek Copywriting Handbook," calls this the slippery slide: "Every element must be so compelling that you find yourself falling down a slippery slide, unable to stop [reading] until you reach the end," he writes. "The sole purpose of the first sentence is to get prospects to read the second sentence, and the sole purpose of the second sentence is to get them to read the third and then the fourth—all while you are building a selling environment for the sale of your product."
If you can do that while seducing search engines, you might as well be spinning gold.
Unfortunately, many SEO copywriters forget the human element. Their writing may have the right keywords, but is it going to interest readers? Probably not. Is it going to generate back links? Doubtful.
The result is slightly higher traffic, but a higher bounce rate, too. There's also the chance that your SEO copywriting will reflect poorly on you. After all, who wants to buy from someone who hasn't mastered basic grammar?
3. Getting Results
You can have the best of both worlds: compelling content and keywords. It's not cheap. And when you compare the cost of good SEO copywriting to the $3, $4 and $5 articles of overseas content farms, its price may seem downright astronomical.
That's because good SEO copywriting takes time, research and and experience. It's not just "writin' purdy," and not just cramming words together with key phrases so Google will notice. SEO copywriters become experts in your business and the unique triggers that make your customers buy.
SEO copywriters also know a thing or two about SEO. Which is why I'll leave you with the following words: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, vuvuzela, iPhone 4.