Open letter to an SEO copywriter

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At least once a year, I am contacted by a customer or agency that has produced some web texts to meet SEO criteria and that wants a copywriter to brush up the text. I’ve never met SEO writers in the flesh, leaving me to wonder if it’s the designer that is doing extra work or whether these people are ever let outside at night. ;- ) So I thought I’d send a message to the anonymous workers on the SEO coal front. If the comments seem a little basic to you, they are nonetheless based on actual website texts that I see in my inbox.

Why choose between SEO and copywriting when you can do both?

If you’re writing for a website, 95% of the time you are thinking about attracting and keeping readers on the page long enough to do something. Unless your client has very large budgets to play with, attracting readers will inevitably mean being spotted in search engines.

I love good SEO. It’s not my specialty, so I won’t presume to talk about it here. But if you are an SEO writer, here are a few tips you can use to bring your website’s pages one step further through a more marketing-minded approach to the copywriting:

* make the process specific to your customer. Don’t talk about the benefits of widgets. It’s Your Customer’s widgets that do the trick. We don’t need another generic description of a service or technology. The web is full of content farms and scraped texts stuffed with keywords. Put your customer’s name out front!
* be more specific in subheads. A subhead that says “Benefits for everyone” is useless for two reasons. It doesn’t help diagonal reading and doesn’t help with SEO. Subheads are h2 or h3. So make them useful: “Your Customer’s laser technology provides benefits for patients and doctors”. “Visitors to Brussels benefit from enhanced travel services”. This brings me to another point:
* add local information where appropriate to help SEO. If your customer only has one or two offices, use that to localize the SEO. “Patients in Paris and Amsterdam enjoy integrated service”.

Now that you’ve run over the text and made it that bit more effective, I have one last copywriting tip:

* make it personal. Go back and read the text as if it was you that was going to book that flight, nose-job or insurance plan. Make the text a little warmer, more real, more from the inside. How? Well, use all the information you received in the brief concerning demographics, the competition and above all motivation.

These simple copywriting guidelines can already significantly improve the SEO copywriting of any website. If you have any further tips, I’d certainly love to hear them in the comment section below!

4 responses to “Open letter to an SEO copywriter”

  1. I agree. And as any copywriter who can do both things knows, you need to write the copy first and ‘optimise’ it afterwards (though you do much of the optimisation as you write).

    It’s a waste of time producing optimised rubbish if you then have to give it to a proper copywriter – they’ll normally have to start from scratch.

  2. An open letter to a copywriter, from an seo copywriter:

    Where are the ‘like’ buttons? Where are the ‘share’ buttons?

    Consider grabbing reader’s attention with an eye-catching image, which can also be optimised for SEO through including keywords in file names and alt tags.

    I noticed you didn’t tag this post….

  3. @Ben, the reason I thought of writing this is it struck that the client ends up paying almost twice the price.

    @Alan: touché. I added a share button. Thanks.

  4. I think another interesting thing to consider in SEO copy writing is spelling mistakes, Americanized spellings and acronyms.

    While you might not want them in your copy, if users are searching for them they should be included. Sometimes I try to include popular misspellings or international synonyms to help appear in the SERPs for these keywords.

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