People say that web writing is a balance between writing copy that’s friendly for search engines and copy that’s friendly for people, and there’s some truth to that. But I’ve found that search engine optimization (SEO) actually strengthens my copy.
SEO is not black magic. It’s not about tricking the search engines into ranking your site higher when people search for a certain word. It’s about aligning the best practices of SEO with the principles of good communication.
Yes, there is a technical aspect to optimizing your website so people will find it when searching with tools like Google. True also that there are certain things that can be done with HTML code that web visitors never see. However, the real trick to SEO is to make your site as relevant as possible to the people you’re talking to.
Relevance: that’s what it’s all about.
Think like a search engine
Can content be relevant both to machines – the web crawlers that search engines use to index websites – and to your human web visitors simultaneously?
In order to think like a search engine, you have to know what parts of your website the web crawlers sent to scan your pages look at. But you have to keep the overall goal of the search engines in mind, too.
The search engines, after all, have the same goal as you. To help users find relevant websites. In this case, hopefully, your website. A big part of creating a keyword list is trying to figure out which words are being searched for by the people you want to visit your website.
So really, good SEO copywriting is about getting into the mindset of your audience. And that happens to be rule number one for good copywriting of any kind. Think from the point of view of your audience.
Once you have the keyword list, you’ll want to use it in places where the web crawlers will find it. Like in headings, subheadings and image titles.
SEO makes online copy stronger
Will using the keywords in places that the search engine dictates make your copy weaker?
Not at all.
If your web copy is already strong, it will make your web copy stronger. It’s not an accident that the search engines are looking for keywords in places like the headings and bullets and links. It is, after all, logical, that the words that are relevant to your content should appear there.
The only way it could make your copy weaker is if you do things backwards and try to jam keywords into your text as an afterthought, giving it an unnatural feel.
When does it make sense to prioritize keywords over good web copy?
When you start focusing on SEO, rather than relevance, then you’ve lost the plot. Because if SEO tactics detract from the flow, sound or rhythm of your text, then the text is less readable. And if the text is less readable, then it’s less valuable to your target audience, and therefore less relevant. After all, who wants to read a text that’s written more for search engines than human beings?
The trick is to use the best practices of SEO in a way that makes your copy stronger, more important and more valuable to your target audience. Then, not only will you the right people find your content, but they’ll be pleased that they did. If you want to know more about SEO, click here.