Why keyword density is crap

Wky keyphrase density is crapIt happened again during SES San Jose 2008. In fact, the situation happens so often (actually, every conference for the last 10 years) that I call it “The question.”

“What kind of keyphrase density should I shoot for in my copy?”

I don’t blame the person who asked the question. Heck, I’m not surprised they’re confused. Ever since the dawn of SEO copywriting time, SEO’ers have been trying to game the content part of the algorithm. It’s even a technique that worked years ago. Back in the early days when Google was but a mere blip on Stanford’s server, SEO experts knew that a 5.5 percent keyphrase density would get a top spot in Alta Vista.

We don’t think that way anymore.

The first reason we don’t is that SEO has gotten harder order the years, and the algorithm has gotten more complex. There’s no magical keyphrase density number that “games” Google or the other engines. So, writing towards a particular metric to position higher on search results is unnecessary and ineffectual. This is supported by Matt Cutts of Google who said in a 2006 blog post, “I’d recommend thinking more about words and variants (the “˜long-tail’) and thinking less about keyword density or repeating phrases.”

The second reason is because writing towards a particular density ignores your main target audience — the people you want to read your articles, contract with you for services and buy your products. Artificially targeting a keyphrase density alters the intent of your writing and sacrifices proven direct response principals. Yes, keyphrases in the copy is important. Yes, include them in headlines, subheadlines and throughout the body text. Yes, it does take time to learn how to weave the “right amount” of keyphrases into your copy so it reads seamlessly — yet leverages every keyphrase opportunity you can leverage. But the main focus should always be “how does what I’m writing engage and persuade my readers?”

Does “ignoring” keyphrase density really work? I was talking to a client last week about a site I had written pages for years ago. After six years, the pages are still positioning in Google’s top three — and that’s without measuring keyphrase density. And more importantly, the copy converted well. That’s a definite win-win – without having to worry about meaningless metrics.


SEO Copywriting recognized as a “top content marketing blog” by Junta42

How exciting! SEO Copywriting has been recognized as #37 on Junta42’s Top Content Marketing Blog list. According to the Junta42 site:

“The Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs list was designed to organize and feature the best blogs on the internet that discuss some aspect of content marketing.”

Well, we’re blushing. Thanks to Joe Pulizzi and the rest of the team at Junta42. We appreciate the honor!

On my way to San Jose

It’s hard to believe that it’s SES San Jose conference time already. It seems like just yesterday I was hanging with Kevin Ryan and the gang at SES NYC”¦how quickly five months can pass.

I’m speaking on a rocking session this year with Anna Stickney from Forbes.com. Called “The Business Case for SEO Content Development: Turn Words Into Action,” we’ll be discussing how SEO content can actually make companies money — pretty cool, eh? Our session will be Thursday morning, August 21, from 10:15-11:15. Stop by and say hi!

Blogging will be a little sparse next week as I immerse myself in everything search engine related. I’ll be back the week after with more fun-filled SEO copywriting content. Stay tuned!

What to do right now: Planning ongoing SEO content

Add more SEO content to your siteSo, what new articles are you adding to your site this month?

I know, I know. Content development and adding additional Website content seems like “too much work” when time is already short and your nerves are feeling frazzled. You can’t ask your marketing department to do it — they’re already maxed out. Fighting for freelance budget seems too overwhelming. And heaven forbid that you add something new to your plate.

Sound familiar?

I am just as guilty as other site owners and marketing departments. Part of my marketing midlife recovery means more and better writing — blog writing, writing for other sites and, yes, writing for my own SEO copywriting site.

Easier said than done.

The thing is, writing ongoing content is more than just a SEO trick. Sure, the engines love new content, and adding ongoing content is one of the ways they measure how “fresh” a site is. Sites without new, ongoing content tend to slowly drop out of rankings sight, despite their age and history. It’s just like Hollywood, baby — if not you’re coming out with new stuff, it’s easy to forget all about you.

Of course, I always hear the kickback — “Why should I add new content? It’s a pain to do. “Yes, it is. But here are the advantages of fresh content:

  • It builds trust. When people search under various keyterms, they notice companies that continually position in the top 10. My favorite example of this is a company called Amsterdam Escape. Their site positions for main keyterms such as “vacations in Amsterdam” as well as long-tail keywords like “places to stay Amsterdam Newmarket.”
  • New content overcomes objections. You can’t assume that prospects will contact you for more information. If your content doesn’t answer their questions immediately, they’ll find another site that does.
  • New content can sell your product or service. This is the most obvious reason — good (or improved) content translates into better conversions.
  • New content gains search engine positions. ‘Nuff said.

Make a commitment to your company to upload at least one new article per month on your Website. That may mean hiring a firm who can help you with an editorial calendar or topic ideas. That may mean asking your internal team to step up and start writing. Either way, ongoing content will keep those search engine rankings (and conversions) flowing.

Is your copy going through a marketing midlife crisis?

Is your copy going through a marketing midlife?My goodness. It’s hard to believe that SuccessWorks (my SEO copywriting firm) has been in business for over 10 years now. Where DID the time go?

Yesterday, I had the weird, odd out-of-body experience one feels while looking at decade-old marketing materials (it’s like looking at old high school yearbooks –what was I thinking with that hairstyle?) Back in 1998, SEO copywriting was not the SEO uber-thang that it is today. Print was still king and content development for the online market was definitely a new skill set. I was a one-woman shop back then, finding my foothold in a new online world. Although SEO copywriting was quickly becoming my niche, I marketed myself as a Jane-of-all-writing trades. I’d pen brochure copy. I’d provide top-notch editorial service. I’d serve up sizzling sales letters. I’d do it all.

Not so much anymore.

SEO copywriting is my main niche, with a secondary focus in online writing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the brochure-writing world. And I haven’t written a direct-mail sales letter in eons. My current site reflects most of my main services and has done a pretty good job for me. I like it. Prospects like it. That makes me smile.

Then again, am I completely happy with my current Website’s tone and feel? No. These last few months have meant a lot of marketing soul-searching and determining where to go next. After 10 years in business, I’ve seen the worst of the dotcom era (so far,) weathered the “what the hell is SEO” storm and enjoyed some fantastically fun clients. I’ve seen what works for me, what doesn’t come close and charted a course for future success.

In short, I’m coming out of a marketing midlfe crisis — and realizing that the marketing tone and feel that used to work for me (and for SuccessWorks) just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Sound familiar? Here’s how to determine if you’re facing your own midlife:

  • You find yourself thinking that your existing copy “isn’t quite right” anymore and “doesn’t quite capture what you’re offering” — yet, you don’t know what you’d change or how.
  • It feels like you’re in a marketing rut and all your copy has sounded exactly the same for years.
  • You’re completely out of fresh marketing ideas for your own company when you used to be a fountain of creative flow. Anything you do create may feel more reactive than proactive.

What did I do? No, I didn’t buy a red muscle car, call myself “Bronson” and engage in extreme kayaking, or date a college-age boytoy. But I did pull out of my marketing midlife crisis.

Outside of lots of percolation time, I talked to trusted friends and associates (all exceptional marketing brainacs) to figure out my next course of action. I chatted with customers. I hired outside marketing help to help me brainstorm. I became more accountable and more involved. I discovered what I want SuccessWorks to be rather than being stuck in what it was.

And go figure, the creative ideas started flowing again.

Your company can see the same results. Ask your customers what’s most important to them. Hire outside SEO content and marketing professionals for advice. Get out of the groupthink and start charting a new course. The energy and excitement you’ll feel is palpable — and breathing new life in an old marketing campaign can see some profitable benefits.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the SuccessWorks site strategy to plan”¦

What to do right now for catalog marketers: Build a blog

SEO copywriting: Building a blog for catalog marketersSure, blogs seem like old news.

“Everyone is blogging,” you say. “How can my catalog company see search engine benefit by creating random bits of blogging fodder?”

Good question. The answer is this: Blogs can help overcome some common catalog marketer challenges without having to change your site. And that’s a good thing.

The challenge with online catalogs is the templates are typically text unfriendly. You have a teeny-tiny word count paired with a site that’s mostly graphics. What’s more, the content is also typically “fixed” — showing a “standard” product description direct from the manufacturer. That means that every other catalog site selling that product also shares the same product description. In an ideal world, you can “touch” the existing page content and make it unique. But if you have 10,000 SKU’s and a rapidly-changing inventory, tweaking the content seems overwhelming.

Enter the blog. Blogging allows you to wax poetic about your products without having to alter your product templates. The writing can be fresh, unique and keyphrase-rich — and allows you to market your products in a unique way that standard product copy doesn’t provide.

Check out Zappos blog as an example. Although the goal of the blog is to promote the brand, the writing does it in a way that’s chatty, informative and fun. For instance, one of the posts profiled snowboarder Charlotte Dutton. Yes, the article is about her. But check out those in-article hyperlinks. Readers are pointed to specific Zappos.com product pages (in this case, “beauty” and “skate park shoes,”) relating to the article. Pretty snazzy, eh?

(Although Zappo’s could have done a better job including keyphrases in the hyperlinks and prequalifying the landing page. The “snowboarding” link took me to the “skate park” page, which didn’t list the word “snowboarding” anywhere.)

Catalog marketers: If you don’t have a blog, talk to someone about the pros and cons (my company, SuccessWorks, creates blogs posts and strategy, and there are many other firms that can help.) See if it’s something that could see positive ROI for your company. As mentioned in a previous post, the holiday season is almost upon us — and a good blog can help drive new traffic, plus gain search engines rankings that may not be possible on your main site.

What to do right now for catalog marketers: Planning your SEO copywriting strategy

SEO copywriting - what to do nowDear catalog marketers,

It’s August 1st. Have you finalized your holiday SEO copywriting strategy?

Right now, while we’re enjoying vacation time and lazy summer days, the words “holiday season” sound far in the future.

Guess what – it’s not.

Already, you’re seeing “Back-to-school” newspaper inserts”¦and soon, Halloween goblins will be gracing the shelves”¦after that, holiday music will bombard your ears with cheer and joy. By the time the vicious holiday season cycle starts, you’ll be in the depths of it – and without a clear content strategy, you’ll be leaving money (and sales) on the table.

In short, get on it. You’ve got just enough time to write new SEO copywriting content, add holiday references to old content and leverage new ways to gain happy customers.

Catalog marketers: here’s what you should be thinking about, right now.

  • Do certain pages need to be rewritten to reflect the holidays and/or a seasonal theme? What organic and PPC landing pages need to be created and by when?
  • What non-sales content (such as articles, buying guides, holiday “must haves”) should you create? Is this new content better suited for a blog? Should you include it as an article on your site? What about creating a newsletter?
  • Have you recently double-checked your keyphrase research? Are there new keyphrases you can fold into your content?
  • When are content rough and final drafts due to editorial? Will that give IT enough time to upload the pages and implement any changes?
  • What offline seasonal promotions are planned? How are you mirroring your offline marketing initiatives online?
  • What about overflow? Will you need to hire additional freelancers, train your staff in SEO copywriting or bring on additional in-house writers?

Sure, it seems like a lot of advanced planning. But by getting your SEO copywriting ducks in a row now, it will be smooth sailing come holiday time (at least around your online content.) And that could be the biggest holiday gift of all.