I’ve been in the copywriting business long enough to see my share of bad writing. The funny (aka annoying) thing is that most of it came from clients or even professional marketing folks who think they’re great writers. While writing isn’t rocket science, becoming a good writer does require skill, training and expertise. So here’s my short list of the best web and SEO copywriting tips.
Consider your audience.
This tip may be from Copywriting 101, but you’d be surprised how often the audience is forgotten. Last week I edited a church brochure intended for visitors who may have never been to a religious service before. Yet the text was scattered with words unique to that church and religion, words that may confuse a newcomer. Read your copy from the perspective of your intended audience. Have you used words that could be confusing or misunderstood? Have you considered how your intended audience would use your product or service? Have you highlighted the information they would be seeking on your website?
You know how frustrating it is to get dressed when your closet is a mess? You know what you want, but it’s hiding in a pile of laundry that never got folded. Web users likewise need to find what they’re looking for, quickly. Utilize headers, and keep paragraphs short. Instead of writing a wordy paragraph about the benefits of a product, create a bulleted list for easy scanning. It’s also a mistake to assume the visitor will read the site from start to finish, so put your most important information in the most prominent spots.
Get to the point.
Don’t take three sentences to say what can be said in one. My college journalism professors forced me to write articles with very low word counts. I learned to say what was necessary in as few words as possible. When writing for the Web, characters and spaces count. Prime real estate can’t be wasted on superfluous words and phrases. Web users don’t read – they scan with roughly the attention span of a goldfish (about 9 seconds), so if you don’t get to the point your readers will bail.
Incorporate keywords naturally.
SEO doesn’t just happen, and neither do good SEO writers. Learning SEO copywriting is like conversation on first dates – awkward, clunky and unnatural, but you get better with practice (hopefully). Here’s an example I saw recently on a site: “Our Atlanta meeting room is an obvious choice for your meeting in Atlanta.” Wait wait, so this meeting room is in Atlanta? Don’t try to cram too many keywords into one sentence or paragraph.
On the flip side, don’t create meaningless copy simply for the purpose of having more space for keywords. Here a real-life example I received from a professional writer for a hotel website: “Given the status of Iquique in this region of Chile, lodging here is popular for businesspeople and groups. With the Free Trade Zone in town, there is always a lot of business going on near our Iquique lodging. To accommodate this business and all the large groups that flock here, hotels in Iquique, Chile offer facilities for them to meet. But few hotels in Iquique offer meeting accommodations like the [brand] hotel’s.” What the what? This is nonsense! A professional, experienced SEO copywriter weaves keywords into copy in a seamless, natural manner.
In a nutshell, this is what it takes to be a good writer. Be logical. Use common sense. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Don’t waste anyone’s time. Get that down, and you’ll be good to go!
Suzanne Youngblood – Director of Content Marketing