Design your SEO copy for your customers, not the search engines. Search Engine Optimization is most effective when you choose the words your customers will use in their search.
It seems to be a single-sided debate. When you mention keyword use, all thoughts normally go to the search engines. Copywriting, however, is more about your human visitors than it is the engines. In fact, even the mainstay of SEO copywriting (keywords) is based on a need to spur visitors along as they work through the information on your site. If you want truly effective SEO copy, you’ll take time to learn that keyword use goes beyond the search engines.
Let’s go offline for a moment. Go get your telephone book. If you were going to conduct a search for, say, an office desk, how would you go about it? You’d look in the Yellow PagesTM under office furniture. Next you’d drill through the ads in search of ads that specifically mentioned “desks” or perhaps the particular kind of desk you want.
SEO for Newspapers?
When looking through the inserts that come with your Sunday newspaper, your eye would be especially drawn to office supply flyers that featured the word “desks” or a picture of desks. Why? Because you’ve got desks on the brain right now. You’re going to be especially sensitive to that word because that’s the current need you’re trying to fill.
The same, exact thing applies when someone searches online. Keywords started out because human Internet searchers typed them into the search engines, not because the search engines selected the terms. The same holds true today. You don’t just make up keywords. You use services and programs that allow you to research the exact phrases human beings are typing to Google, Yahoo! and other engines. When you incorporate those words and phrases into your website copy, you’re doing way more than attempting to boost your rankings; you’re also helping to navigate the site visitor from the search engine to the right page of your site.
If you’re the owner of the office supply store we’ve been talking about and you want to create a newspaper ad to sell a new line of desks you carry, what do you think might appear in the headline? The word “desk” or perhaps the phrase “office desks.” Why would you do that? There are no search engines to optimize for in the newspaper industry. You’ll include those keywords because it makes sense to do so. You’ll include them because they are descriptive of what you’re selling. You’ll include them because it will attract the readers’ attention and draw them to your store. That’s not search engine optimization; it’s just good marketing.
Lead, Don’t Shove
The same applies when writing copy for your site. There’s more than one reason to include keywords in your copy. The primary one is not the engines, it’s your site visitors. Strategic keyword placement helps guide your visitors to the information, products or services they are looking for. Don’t shove keywords in everywhere you think you can possibly fit them. Instead, use keywords to lead your visitors in the right direction.
Even if there were no such thing as search engine optimization, your copy would almost certainly still contain keywords. It only makes sense to have keywords in the headline, so visitors will know what the page is about. Sub-heads? Sure thing! People scan more than they read, so having keywords in sub-heads is a great idea. And in the body copy? You bet! After all, it’s pretty hard to sell desks without actually using the word “desk.” Since there are school desks and computer desks and many other desks, you’ll want to make it clear that your sale is for “office desks.” That, too, only makes sense.
As you can see, keyword inclusion has been going on far longer than the Internet has existed. It’s been an important part of copywriting since marketing was invented. When you create a copywriting plan for your site pages, think through which keywords you should use and where the most effective places to position those keywords would be. Then develop your SEO copy with a goal of directing your visitors to the right information. When you do, you’ll naturally optimize for the search engines at the same time.
Copyright 2006, Karon Thackston, All Rights Reserved