Writing Your Web Site Copy

» SEO Keywords that Count

The traffic you get on your web site got there for a reason — because your site ranked on the first page of a Google search or because the user clicked on a link to your site from some other site (that showed up on the first page of a Google search). In either case, the visitors got there because of the words contained within your site, aka the copy, aka the corpus, aka the content. When it comes to getting noticed by both search engines and potential buyers of the product or service you purvey, a picture is no longer worth a thousand words. On the contrary, a thousand words are worth a picture (gif) if they’re the right words. And that’s the key — your site content must contain the right words in the right place to get picked up by search engine spiders and the paying public.

The earliest search engines used a pretty crude formula for determining the relevance of a site to a user’s query. The formula heavily weighted the keywords submitted by the site owner and keyword density — how often you could squeeze the word ‘mango’ in your mango-related site — something the SE spiders gobbled up.

This led to some obvious abuse mango and some pretty strange text. Mango. In fact, mango, a lot of what was produced mango to attract the mango attention of search engine spiders (mango, mangoes, mango juice) was unintelligible gibberish mango. And the nice geeks who design SE algorithms were quick to catch on. You see, the better results a search engine delivers, the more repeat users of that SE, so these number crunchers went to work to figure out how to improve the quality (relevance) of the SERPs delivered as the result of user’s query.

Today’s search engines use a broad array of criteria to establish whether your site shows up on page 1 or page 224 of SERPs, but keywords and keyword placement are still important elements of every SE in use today. Words count. Gibberish doesn’t.

So what does this mean to you, the site owner who’s trying to improve page rank? Well, you can no longer load up pages of keyword dense text and expect respect from any respectable SE. It ain’t gonna happen. Quality content — content that says something and actually helps the user — matters. And if you can’t string words together to create quality content, you’d better find someone who can if you want to move up in PR.

High quality, SEO text is important for several reasons:

  • it’s what SE spiders ‘read';
  • it’ll get higher quality buyers to your site, thus increasing your conversion rate, and;
  • it’ll generate repeat visits because previous visitors liked what they read and saw.

If you’re working with a reputable web site design firm (not your daughter’s boyfriend who just bought one of those ‘web sites in a box’ software deals), no worries. The design firm will be aware of your site’s text needs and will provide copy that reads well, informs or entertains and highlights those still-important key words.

So, during that first skull session with your site design firm, make two things very, very clear: what you’re selling (your business plan) and to whom you’re selling (your target demographic). This will lead to a bunch of questions from the design team (“All teen boys, Bob, or just the 15-18 year old demographic?”) and, if they’re good, they’ll be able to take it from there.

If you’re writing your own text, take a lesson:

  • Step 1:
    Develop your list of keywords. (There are lots of on-line tools to help you.)
  • Step 2:
    Put your keyword list in a sealed box, in another part of the house and pretend you never saw it.
  • Step 3:
    Write the first draft of your text without giving a single thought to your list of keywords. That’s why they’re locked in that sealed box on the other side of the house.
  • Step 4:
    Rework the text to make sure it’s clear, informative, accurate and enjoyable to read. (This part could take a bit of time, but it’s time well spent.)
  • Step 5:
    Proof it for typos, misspellings and other goofs and give it that final, editorial polish. (Remember, it’s ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’).
  • Step 6:
    Retrieve and unseal your key word and phrase list.
  • Step 7:
    Add key words and phrases to your beautiful text to ensure readability.

The placement of key words is just as important as the key words themselves, since spiders don’t read every word on every page of every web site they visit. So, here are some simple rules to maximize the effectiveness of every key word you use:

  • Include at least one key word in the title or heading of your text. Check out the title of this piece, for example. It’s designed to draw visitors interested in learning more about key words.
  • Use key words in sub-heads and use a lot of sub-heads throughout the body of the text — the corpus.
  • Spiders love bulleted lists (like this one) so try to build at list one bulleted list into your SEO copy.
  • Use at least one key word in the first sentence or two of every paragraph — but only if the text still reads like text and not gibberish.
  • Finally, when in doubt, leave it out. Too many key words is worse than too few.

Look, if you don’t think you’ve got the writing skills to pull this off, hire someone experienced in developing SEO text. It’s not an area where you want to cut corners, given the importance today’s sophisticated SEs now place on quality, useful text. On the other hand, if you can write good informational or marketing text, read up on the latest SE algos and have at it. It’s your call. Mango.

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