Content Optimization Writing Effective Web Copy for Search Engines and People
When a search engine crawler comes to assess your site, it uses the visible text to determine what your site is about and how it will be ranked. So, content optimization with keyword-rich text should be a top priority if high rankings are important to your business.
Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts say that content optimization should be the second task in your optimization process, right after selecting the keywords.
So for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that you have already selected a set of keyword phrases for each page you intend to optimize. You’ve chosen search terms that accurately describe what you sell or do and that reflect the way searchers will look for your kind of product/services.
Now you need to apply those keywords to either new content or existing content so there are enough repetitions to improve your rankings but not so many that it causes the text to become awkward and “spammy”. It’s a fine line sometimes.
Some SEO copywriters use software to help them calculate the ratio of keywords to surrounding text, others simply rely on their experience and intuition to guide them to a proper content balance.
To be effectively optimized, a page should have at least 200 to 300 words. Longer copy is fine but going much shorter makes it harder to establish keyword prevalence.
For a 300-word page, you’ll want to select three or four search terms. Any more than that and you will dilute the potency of each term.
And be sure to select different search terms for each page of copy, carefully matching those terms to the theme of the page. In other words, if your site sells home décor items and one whole page is dedicated to glass figurines, be sure to use specific keywords like “glass figurines” and “glass ornaments” for that product page. Broad, general terms such as “home décor items” or “gifts for the home” are better suited to your home page.
Keywords in Headings and Text
It’s always wise to put keyword phrases in your main heading and in as many subheadings as makes sense within the context. Then follow each heading with keyword-enhanced body copy.
When adding keywords to your content, always remember the reader. Overstuffed, spammy copy not only reads poorly but can be confusing and irritating to your visitors.
Remember, the point of any page of sales content is always to prompt a particular action, whether it’s to click a buy button, navigate to another page, or pick up the phone. The only action that overstuffed copy seems to inspire is a retreat to a better-written site.
Now before you start optimizing your content, here are a few things to be aware of:
- Text that appears within a graphical image cannot be crawled.
- Text that appears within a flash presentation also cannot be crawled.
- Invisible text used to trick the search engines can be spidered but your site may be penalized as a result.
- Doorway pages or redirect pages that are filled with keyword gibberish don’t get past the search engines any more.
What works best are accessible pages filled with valuable content that has been optimized skillfully and legally with relevant keyword phrases.
Testing Your Optimized Content
After you’ve written and optimized your page, take a nap, eat dinner, go for a walk or whatever. Then come back refreshed and read the copy as if you’ve never seen it before.
If you find yourself stumbling or having to read the same passage several times, or if the sentences don’t flow in an easy fashion and it just seems like something’s wrong… you’ve probably overstuffed.
It’s very tempting to write copy like the sample below, which favors search engines more than readers:
“Bob’s Limousine Service, Where Limousine Service is all we do. Call Bob’s Limousine Service for the finest limousine service in the tri-state area.”
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to spot that sort of content and fix it by removing some of the repetitions and/or replacing them with other suitable keyword terms:
“Bob’s Limousine Service, where we specialize in Chauffeur Driven Limos. You’ll always arrive on time and in style when you hire a chauffeured limo from Bob’s Limousine Service.”
At times, it may seem that the search engines and your prospective customers are creating an impossible situation by demanding different things from your copy. The search engines look for and reward repeated keywords while people prefer to read compelling copy without a lot of repetition. How can those conflicting needs ever be reconciled?
As web copywriter Nick Usborne points out, “Both your visitors and the major search engines like Google are in search of the same thing… RELEVANCE. The search engines look at the words and phrases PEOPLE type into their search bars. Then the engines list and display the most relevant pages for those words or phrases.”
The point is that the gap isn’t as great as it might seem when you first set out to optimize your copy. And with practice, it does get easier to satisfy both robotic and human readers of your content.