top three seo copywriting mistakes … are you making them too?

The following post is written by Joan Damico, a member of the Dragon360 guest blogging community. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Dragon360.

I think that every copywriter must understand and apply good SEO copywriting techniques because most content or iteration of content finds its way to the website. So while there’s no substitute for well-written copy, there is a way to combine SEO copywriting and quality writing practices to enhance your search visibility and reader engagement.

Neglecting the meta data online and offline

Meta data—the page content that’s not visible to the reader, but is visible to search engines and also shows up on the search engine results page (SERP)—is one of the most effective ways to leverage keywords. Meta data starts with your page title and description. One keyword in a title is sufficient, and if you have more than one keyword in a tile of only 60-70 characters, that could be seen as spammy. Place your keyword as close to the beginning of the title as possible. For example:

DON’T write: Improve Your Ranking with SEO Copywriting Techniques
DO write: SEO Copywriting Techniques that will Improve Your Ranking

When writing the page description, which also appears in the SERP, include the keyword as near to the beginning as is possible. With about 160 characters, you can include two instances of the keyword where it makes sense and is readable. I strive for once at the beginning and then again in a call to action (yes . . . a page description should have a call to action besides “learn more”!). For example:

DON’T write: Writers who want to learn more about SEO copywriting techniques can read my latest blog post SEO Copywriting Techniques that Will Improve Your Ranking. Read more>>
DO write: SEO Copywriting Techniques that Will Improve Your Ranking shares effective SEO techniques. Learn how you can apply SEO copywriting techniques to improve ranking>>

As for offline copywriting, remember to make use of the “properties” in Word documents and PDFs. These are the equivalent of meta data and can be searchable from the internet or on a local desktop search. Write meaningful page descriptions which can be similar to the meta page description.

Avoiding Subheads

Subheads make reading much easier and are also crawled by search engines looking for keywords and relevance (provided they are coded with H1, 2 or 3 tags instead of simply bold or emphasis). One technique that I like to use—sparingly, of course (you’ll see why after you read #3 below)—is the “colon technique.” This allows the SEO copywriter to include a keyword when one can’t logically fit in a subhead. The colon technique is especially useful when using a catchy phrase or cliché where the keyword or phrase doesn’t sound logical. For example:

DON’T write: Don’t Count Your SEO Copywriting Chicks Before They’re Hatched
DO write: SEO Copywriting: Don’t count your chicks before they’re hatched.

Then, depending on the total number of words on the page (see #3 below) you may want to add one or two more subheads using the colon technique. I usually don’t go beyond two instances in a 300- to 500-word web page.

Over Optimizing

Yes, it is possible to over optimize a webpage. Not only is it bad for readability, but also is punishable by search engines. Over optimizing is basically writing content with a high keyword density—a term that surfaced several years ago describing the ratio of keywords to total words on a given page. Overly optimized web pages contain forced keywords in headlines and sentences making them awkward to read and/or annoyingly repetitive. Another form of over optimizing is adding a paragraph to the page for the sole purpose of including keywords when the content of the paragraph isn’t relevant to the rest of the page.

Google announced earlier this year that overly optimized websites would be punished in the rankings. Watch the SEOmoz video for a good tutorial on how to avoid the Google over optimization penalty. If you prefer skip to the transcript—paragraphs 4, 5 and 9 for SEO copywriting-specific advice.

So I emphasize that well-written copy in the first place avoids black hat SEO copywriting techniques. However, it is possible for SEO copywriting and good practice copywriting to peacefully co-exist. Always strive for well-written copy first and then tweak for keywords. As you become more experienced with SEO copywriting, optimization will come more naturally.

About Joan Damico

Joan is a B2B MarCom consultant, copywriter and voice-over talent with more than 20 years of experience. Joan helps high tech and industrial companies generate leads and sales through integrated marketing communications including SEO copywriting, social media and website content.   She’s the author of the Integrated Marcom Minute Blog and can be found on Twitter @copywriter4u.

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