Writing with SEO in Mind
Taking an existing website and optimizing the copy for search engines can be a daunting task requiring more creativity from the optimizer than one might expect. Those new to SEO and even experts sometimes are tempted to just dive in and start adding keywords here and there, focusing too much on things like keyword density. This activity is fueled by the belief that success is measure purely by increased rankings while completely ignoring the negative effects to conversion that bad copy can have on a user.
Writing copy is an art and I don’t claim to be an expert at it. I’d even say that most search engine optimizers are average, at best, writers. So when it comes to writing web copy where search engine traffic is important, it’s generally better to get a professional writer to at least create a first draft. After the writer is done, an SEO can step in to apply his trade. However, even with this cooperative effort, things can go awry with the final copy sounding like one of those silly radio commercials where two people are having a conversation that sounds completely unnatural.
Tips for writing copy abound with one of my favorite sources being Brian Clark’s CopyBlogger. In addition, there are two things that I like to do that I believe really help. The first is to make sure you’re considering the whole web page when tweaking the copy. Changes to a sentence might sound OK in isolation, but can seem ridiculous when the bigger picture is considered. The second tip is to read all copy out loud. This may drive your co-workers nuts, but reading out loud really brings out oddities in your writing.
One further complication to all of this is that you sometimes don’t have access to server code for the website you’re optimizing. Although it’s possible to recreate a page locally by grabbing the HTML source code, CSS stylesheet, and images, doing so can be time consuming. One workaround to this additional work is to use CSSFly. This web-based tool allows you to make real-time edits to a web page as if you had a local, editable copy. These changes, of course, aren’t actually changing the real web page, just a representation of it. With a little care you can use this software to review your copy edits as a whole and confirm that the layout is still acceptable, both of which will increase the likelihood that recommendations for your client’s website will be approved and implemented.