All the SEO tips you need to write prime-positioned copy that converts like crazy! Learn how to write Titles, descriptions, content and more!

When Should You Insert Keyphrases Into Your Copy?

I received a fantastic question during an interview for The Copywriter Club Podcast. (Hey, Rob and Kira!) 

In fact, it’s a question newbie SEO writers struggle with all the time.

“When should I insert keyphrases into my copy? As I write? Or should I add them after I’m done writing?”

Although some people will tell you their way is the right way, this is one of those rare SEO writing instances where you can do your own thing.

Meaning, you can add keyphrases as you write the copy. You can edit them in after. Heck, you can do both. You do you.

Having said that, both approaches have some specific advantages.

If you want to add the keyphrases as you write:

It can be faster. You can write spectacular content and include keyphrases all in one pass — no additional optimization necessary.

It saves editing time. You won’t need to edit a sentence (or more) to make your keyphrases “fit” the way you want. They’re already in the content.

If you want to add the keyphrases after you write the main copy:

It can be easier. ESPECIALLY if you’re new to SEO writing. Doing it this way may mean more content editing to make the keyphrases fit. That’s OK.

You may see keyphrase (or content) opportunities that you didn’t see when you wrote the main copy. This is especially true for keyphrase synonyms and related words.

Plus, keyphrase editing is a great way to make old copy better for Google (and easier for your readers to find.) Here’s how to do it.

What do I do?

Both. Of course. :)

Yes, I’ll add the keyphrases as I write the content. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s easy for me to see the keyphrase opportunities and to include them where they naturally flow.

But…

I always take a second (or third) keyphrase pass as part of my editing process. I double-check that I didn’t go wild with my keyphrase usage — and I also look for missed keyphrase (even topic) opportunities.

You may choose a “best of both worlds” approach, too. It’s what works for you.

What about keyphrase research? Can I do that after I write the content?

Nope.

You should conduct keyphrase research before you start writing. Every time.

Why?

Because today’s SEO writing process isn’t like the bad ol’ days when we were optimizing pages for a single keyphrase like [running shoes.]

In today’s brave new SEO writing world, we’re weaving in a number of topic-based keyphrases.

For instance, I just evaluated an REI blog post about how to choose trekking poles and hiking staffs. Although [how to choose trekking poles] and [how to choose hiking staffs] were obviously the page’s main keyphrases, the guide also discussed how to find the right length for the right terrain, how the poles are made, and how-to tips.

What’s more, all of their subheads topics, such as “tips for using trekking poles” are based on keyphrases and keyphrase research. 

Is it any wonder that, according the SEMrush, this ONE page is positioning for 595 keyphrases?

Yes, 595 keyphrases.

That’s why keyphrase research is more than just learning how people search. It can also give you article structure ideas. 

For instance, you may find a tasty question-oriented keyphrase during the research phase that may slightly change how you approach the content. Having all the data in front of you early can prevent extensive rewrites later.

As I’ve always said, keyphrase research gives you power.

What do you think?

When do you add keyphrases to your SEO content? As you write? Or after you’re done as part of the editing process? Leave your comment below!

This SEO Writing Tactic Never Works

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Has your boss or a prospect ever said, “I’d like to try optimizing one page to see what happens. Then, if the page positions the way we want, we’ll work on other pages”?
Argh.
You hear this a lot if you’re freelancing or working for a boss who doesn’t get SEO. In their mind, you should be able to achieve some pretty sweet Google positions with just one page. That is, if you know what you’re doing…
And if you don’t grab some great Google positions after the one-page test? Well, that’s your fault.
Nope, nope, nope.
As one of my colleagues said about this very topic, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”
Here’s the real deal…
SEO writing success is more than “let’s optimize one page and wait for the rankings to flow in.”
SEO is an ongoing process for ALL your site pages. Not just one.
Think about it.
Let’s say a company had 1,000 un-optimized pages, and they wanted you to optimize just one of them.
That means your one optimized page — no matter how well you did — is being dragged down by 999 UN-optimized pages that aren’t helping the site.
The odds are unfortunately stacked against you (and your client) no matter how good you are, how smart you are, and how well you wrote the page.
It’s a no-win situation.
What can you do instead?
Well, this depends on how educated the client is — and how motivated they are to change their situation.
Sometimes, you can suggest an SEO content audit instead. This is where you comb through your client’s site and pinpoint any optimization opportunities.
For instance, many sites (yes, even in 2019) are keyphrase-free. Or, have crappy Titles. Or, their content doesn’t match the searcher intent.
THESE are bigger SEO content issues than just “tweaking one page.” Sure, fixing these issues will cost more time and money than what the client had in mind — but, it does help him reach his goal of better site positions and more traffic.
Or sometimes, you may be able to help the powers-that-be in a different way. For instance, your client may have a bunch of good (yet un-optimized) blog posts that all talk about a certain topic. You may be able to optimize those posts, create an authoritative pillar page, and drive traffic that way.
Granted, that’s a longer-term strategy that would also involve some promotional efforts. And it will take more time and resources. But, it’s a more successful strategy than randomly optimizing a page and praying for results.
(BTW, I talked about this strategy as it relates to new sites — but the strategy could also apply to older sites with existing content. Here’s some additional information about how to do it.)
But, what if they still insist on optimizing a single page, even after you share why it won’t work?
If you have the freedom to turn down the work, that’s something you may want to consider — especially if you get the feeling that the prospect isn’t listening to your advice.
It’s always OK to walk away from a prospect if you know you can’t give them what they want.
Or, if you do take on the work, consider writing a strong CYA email that reiterates your concerns. That way, your client can’t come back in six months and say, “Why didn’t you tell me this won’t work?” (Yes, it happens.)
Just don’t get sucked in to the “well, can you send a detailed email outlining what you would do instead” trap. General advice is fine. Customized advice would fall under “consultation” or an SEO content audit…and cost money.
Don’t give away those tasty SEO tidbits in your brain for free.
What do you think?
Have you been asked to optimize one page “as a test”? What other weird SEO writing requests have you heard? Leave a comment and let me know.

Here’s How TV Commercials Help Copywriters

I was happily binge-watching Letterkenny on Hulu, when a Peloton ad flashed on the screen.

If you watch live or streaming television, you’ve probably seen one of their ads. Beautiful people with amazing homes and zero body fat furiously pedal their Peloton bikes while somehow still looking attractive.

(How do those people do it? I look like a wet rat after a workout.)

“A hard 20 after a hard day isn’t for everyone,” the voice-over warns. “Waking up before the sun isn’t for everyone.”

You can check out this commercial and this one if you haven’t seen them before. 

 

 

Yes, Peloton’s ads make me laugh. Yes, I love mocking the amazing homes and the glistening models with perfect hair and the just right amount of sweat.

BUT…

I have to give it up for Peloton. Their ad copy is exceptionally brilliant.

Let’s break this down…

  1. The company sets a clear, target customer expectation, “Only certain kinds of people are Peloton people.” The viewer can immediately self-select and decide if they are a “hard 20 after work” person — or more of a “let’s sit on the couch and watch Hulu” person.
  2. If they are a “hard 20” person and are interested in the bike, they’re reinforced by visuals with pretty people enjoying their fun workouts in their amazing houses. Sure, most of Peloton’s target audience may not currently live in a top-floor condo and look sexy while they sweat —  but hey, maybe, a $2,500 exercise bike will get them there.
  3. And then, they learn they can make payments of under $60 a month. For the person in their target market sweet-spot, $60 a month to have the life and body they’ve always wanted is a bargain. This is a sweet way to overcome the “I can’t afford it” objection and to make their target audiences’ dream life a reality.

Why do I bring this up?

Sometimes, as entrepreneurs and writers, we get so focused on writing copy that “appeals to the masses” that we forget an important point.

“The masses” aren’t our target audience.

Look at how Peloton structures their ads. Sure, people mock their ads (most likely, people who aren’t in their target audience.) 

Yet, I bet those ads are making Peloton a lot of money. 

Let’s face it: their ad agency knows exactly what makes their target market tick — and they twist that “are you one of us?” knife throughout their commercials.

It’s hard-hitting and done exceptionally well.

Sure, their commercials exclude a lot of people. Not everyone has a beautiful condo and perfect workout hair. Not everyone is physically able to work out.

Does Peloton care? No. Because they aren’t out to please the couch-bound people. Or, the people who would prefer a gym. Or, the people who don’t have $60 a month lying around. 

I may mock Peloton, but they teach copywriters an important lesson:

When we write copy that pleases everyone, our copy loses its power.

So, if you’ve been afraid to write laser-focused copy because, “you don’t want to lose possible customers,” think again.

You don’t need everyone to come to your site — but you do need the right people. 

And those are the people for whom you carefully craft your content. Not “everyone.”

What do you think?

Have you fallen into the “I have to create content for everyone” trap? Do you look at your own content and think, “Ugh, yeah. This is not good”? Leave a comment and let me know!

7 Outdated SEO Writing Myths That Will Not Die

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Do you know what drives me nuts?

Reading about outdated or incorrect SEO tactics.

Like a virus, these bad tactics get passed around from person to person. One company I worked with had an old “SEO copywriting 101” Powerpoint that hadn’t been updated in seven years. Another company read a “hot tip” in a forum and didn’t know that it was wrong. Another client got their bad information from an old SEO vendor.

Ouch. That’s scary stuff.

Unfortunately, some sites are built on stupid SEO copy strategies (hopefully, your site is not one of them.) The strategy may seem somewhat effective. Maybe even logical. But unfortunately, they are like slow-moving viruses that are making the site “sick.”

Here are the most common SEO writing myths I (still!) see:

Keyphrase density

Will. People. Please. Let. This. Die. About the time I think the world is safe from keyphrase density percentages is when I get an email saying, “I was watching a corporate training video, and the recommendation was 3.2 %. Is that still right?”

Keyphrase research has’t been a “thing” since the days of Alta Vista (remember them?). Ignore keyphrase density. Wipe it from your mind. Let it go. Don’t you feel much better now?

Keyphrases (and SEO writing) are dead

No, keyphrases are not dead. They are still alive, kicking and doing well. This tasty tidbit of misinformation stems from Google is much “smarter” than it used to be. Yes, Google can understand the intent of a page. But that doesn’t mean your content should be keyphrase-free. In fact, basic optimization techniques can often propel low-ranking pages to top positions.

It’s true that in today’s world, you don’t have to worry about exact matching the keyphrase every time and repeating it X times. However, you’ll still want to use keyphrases (and synonyms) in your content. Continue to research your keyphrases and use them in your body copy and your Title. Just like always. You’ll be fine.

To the people who say SEO writing is dead, I tell them to look at how Google is laser-focused on quality content. To me, that shows writers still have a seat at the SEO table.

Is keyphrase research still important? Yes.

We used to see spammy pages in the top-10 results all the time. Today, we may see them every once in awhile, but the frequency is way down.

Plus, what Google sees as quality content is changing — in the good way.

Heck, Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines are ALL about assessing content quality. Google’s stance on quality content makes me think that SEO writing will be around for a long time.

Press releases are a great way to get links

Once upon a time, press releases were a great way to get links. You could add some keyphrase-rich anchor text pointing back to your site and blammo–links galore! There were some pretty spammy (and funny) releases back in the day. Sure, the releases deviated far away from the real intent of distributing a release (letting the press know about a newsworthy event.) But people didn’t care.

Today, press releases are still a relevant marketing tactic and can be an essential piece of the overall marketing pie. A well-written release can help you (or your client) get press mentions and even drive traffic. But…

…the links within your press release have zero Google link juice and won’t help you position. Yes, distribute a press release if it makes sense for your business — but know that it won’t help with SEO.

There is a “right” word count for Google

There has never been a “perfect” word count for Google, no matter what the experts say. Yes, I know that some experts say that longer copy (1,500+ words) tends to position better. But that’s not the case for all copy, all the time. Nor should an arbitrary word count dictate how you write the copy.

Your best bet is to write a wide variety of content and let the subject matter dictate the length. You may want to write resource-intensive 1,500-word blog posts and 500-word services pages. That’s OK. Your main criteria should be, “Am I writing this for my readers?” If you start slipping into writing things “for Google,” you’ll mess up our readers’ experience.

Besides, even Google has said that word count doesn’t equal quality content. Longer articles aren’t necessarily better or more authoritative. They’re just…longer.

Guest posting can get you slapped with a penalty

Guest posting gets a bad rap. Once upon a time, people used to score links by submitting to every site under the sun. Did it work? Sure. Did it drive qualified traffic? Nope.

Then Google changed their stance on guest blogging. The great Google gods made it clear that writing a crappy blog post for the sole purpose of driving links is no longer OK.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t guest blog on quality publications your target market reads. Nor does it mean that you can’t accept a guest post from a quality author. It just means you have to be picky.

Guest posting can drive fantastic, targeted traffic. It can help your company build brand awareness. Just target your publications (and court your guest bloggers) carefully. If you’re responding to emails that say, “I’ll blog for you for free in exchange for a link back to my site,” well, you deserve what you get.

There is a secret SEO writing formula

I’ve been in the SEO writing game for over 20 years. If there was a “no fail” SEO writing formula, don’t you think I would be on a beach somewhere counting my Benjamins and watching the waves?

Of course I would!

The reality is, there IS no sure-fire SEO writing formula.

Why?

The “best” approach depends on the keyphrase, the target reader, and the current competition. A 500-word article may be perfect, or way too short. It depends on the query and the intent. What works for my site may not work for yours.

Yes, there are specific best practice “steps,” but they’ve never been a secret. If you ever hear the term “secret SEO ANYTHING,” it’s time to run away.

You should blog “for Google”

Yes, blogging is good. But…

…if the only reason you’re blogging is to get in Google’s good graces, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, blogging is a great way to gain Google positions. But, most importantly, it’s a fantastic way to connect with readers at all phases of the buy cycle.

Google doesn’t care how often you publish new content. So, there’s no percentage to uploading multiple pieces of so-so content every week. I’ve even seen companies try to get positive Google vibes by uploading multiple blog posts a day. How high quality do you think their posts were?

Yeah. You guessed it. Instead of quantity, think quality content.

To summarize: Blogging for readers = good. Blogging for SEO only = bad. It’s simple.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite SEO writing myths that will not die? Post your ideas in the comments!

How Many Times Should You Exact Match the Keyphrase?

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Here’s a quiz for you…

How many times should you exact match the keyphrase in your web copy?

a. Five times

b. At least once every 100 words

c. At least once per paragraph

d. At least seven times, but no more than 15 for a 700-word article

The answer?

None of the above.

OK, I know that was a trick question. But, I phrased it like that to showcase the weird rules some SEO writers follow. There is no reason to tie yourself (and your copy) up in knots anymore.

In short: You can throw the “exact match” rule out the window!

(It’s time to do a little happy dance!) :)

Google has grown up (a little bit)

“But Heather,” you say. “I thought you had to exact match a keyphrase multiple times. Otherwise the page won’t position well.”

In fact, one man from the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group complained that one client forced him to exact match multiple long-tail search terms in the content. Imagine stumbling over [Dallas TX carpet cleaning emergency 24 hours] in a sentence.

Yeah. That’s not good.

This thinking is closely related to that old “keyword density” concept which WILL NOT DIE.

What’s keyword density? 

Count the number of keywords/keyphrases on a given page, then divide it by the total word count.  Voila:  keyword density.  For example, a 500-word page with 10 keywords/keyphrases =  a keyword density of 2-percent.

Keyword density hasn’t been a “thing” for over 15 years. Matt Cutts from Google debunked this back in 2011:

And I talked about it, too:

Here’s the thing: Once upon a time, when Google was young and dumb, you had to exact match the keyphrase multiple times to make Google “notice” your page.

Plus, some writers would optimize pages for just one keyword. One page would be about [running shoes], and another page would be about [running shoe], while yet another would discuss [shoes for running.]

Yes, it was that bad.

via GIPHY

Unfortunately, that’s where SEO writing got its bad rap. Companies — even major ones — kicked out content that read like an AdWords keyword list. The keyword was repeated so many times, it ruined the content’s readability.

What’s happening today?

The Panda algorithm shakeup in 2011 was Google’s first major swipe at keyphrase-stuffed content.

Since then, Google’s algorithm refinements and the advent of RankBrain means Google will return relevant results where the search term isn’t even on the page.

Newsflash: We’re optimizing for entities now. Yes, keyphrases are still important. But, that doesn’t mean you repeat the keyphrase over and over.

You can (and should) use synonyms and related words in your web content.

You should fully answer your readers’ questions without worrying about a following false writing formula.

In short, focus on writing solid copy.

Need more help? Here’s a great article by Ann Smarty discussing four tools you can use to discover and optimize for related keyphrases. Even Ann says, “SEO moved beyond exact keyword matching long ago.”

 

In today’s world, as long as the individual words in the long-tail keyphrase appear somewhere on the page — and the page is relevant to the searcher’s query —  you’re good.

What’s more, Google considers unnatural-sounding copy “poor content.” Here’s an exact quote from Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines:

“Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users….Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful main content to help users, should be rated Lowest.”

Still not convinced? Here are some common questions I hear about exact matching the keyphrase:

My client insists I exact match the keyphrase ten times in a 500-word blog post. What can I do?

I feel your pain. I still receive emails that say, “I would like you to write a 1,500-word blog post, and include the keyphrase every 100-words.” Ugh.

You can try to educate your client, by showing her this post and Google’s guidelines. However, there are some clients who won’t “get it,” no matter how much you try. In that case, you can either do what your client wants — or, you can walk away and find another gig.

Help! We’ve exact-matched the keyword too many times! How can we fix our web copy?

Does your copy sound like a laundry list of exact matched keyphrases? You’ll want to track those pages down and de-optimize them. This may mean rewriting the page, or it could mean pulling out some keyphrases until your copy sounds normal again.

Our copywriter/agency/web designer says we have to exact match the keyword multiple times “for Google.” Are you saying they’re wrong?

Yes. They’re operating on outdated information, and that can cost you search traffic. Consider finding another vendor who can help.

A competitor’s site is way over-optimized, and they’re out-positioning our site. Does that mean we should add more keywords to our web content?

Possibly, but proceed with caution. Your content may have some tasty optimization opportunities, and tweaking your content and Title could mean some big wins.

However, if you’re adding keyphrases just because — and they’re messing with the readability — you need to back away from the keyboard. There are other ways to drive search volume without resorting to spammy techniques.

What do you think? Have you had a client (or boss) insist on exact matching the keyphrase multiple times? Leave your comment below!

Still Using Google’s Keyword Planner? Your Time May Be Up.

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Cover Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Over the years, I’ve joked that “Google giveth, and Google taketh away.”

Here we go again.

And this time, it may directly affect how you do business.

Here’s what’s happening…

The free ride is over

Years ago, Google’s Keyword Planner was considered a fairly viable keyphrase research tool. Accessing it was easy, the data was decent, and, most importantly, it was free. Sure, it was created for PPC ad research, but it (mostly) did the organic trick.

In fact, many writers (and even agencies) relied on Google’s Keyword Planner for all their organic keyphrase research.

Then, over the years, Google changed the game.

At first, you had to be logged into Google to use the tool. No big deal.

Then, you needed to create an AdWords account to access the tool. You didn’t have to spend money, but you did need to sign up.

Then, Google started to show search volume ranges rather than specific numbers (unless you were a major advertiser; then you got to see it all.)

Sure, search volume ranges made the data fairly worthless (especially compared to paid keyphrase research tools,) but some loyal folks stuck with it — probably because it was free.

Not anymore.

Good news: Google rebuilt the Keyword Planner from the ground up. Bad news: Google is deactivating all AdWords accounts with no active spend over the last 15 months.

What does this mean?

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo

If you’re not spending money with Google, you’ve been kicked off the Keyword Planner island. If you want back on, you have to reactivate your account, reinstate a PPC ad campaign — and yes, actually run it and pay money.

You don’t get to play with the latest and greatest Keyword Planner without paying (for a PPC campaign.)

Plus, Google is instituting the change this week. So, there’s virtually no warning.

How bad is this, really?

It depends.

Many companies and writers have dropped Keyword Planner in favor of another, more robust keyphrase research tool. This is a good thing.

However, if Keyword Planner has been your best keyphrase research buddy, it’s time to find another option — fast.  Check out tools like Keyword Finder, Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush. Try their free trials. See what feels the best to you.

Yes, these tools cost money. But look at it this way — you’ve been getting a free ride all these years. It’s time to see where a real keyphrase research tool will take you.

Once you roll around in all the juicy data a paid tool provides, you’ll never go back to free.

Besides, a good keyphrase research tool is just as important as your computer, your website, and everything else you need to run your business.

Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn

It’s time to take the plunge.

What do you think?

When I published this information in my weekly newsletter, the feedback was split down the middle. About half of my respondents were freaking out, and asking for my keyphrase research tool suggestions (here you go.) The rest said they stopped using Google’s Keyword Planner a long time ago, and enjoy the tasty data a paid keyphrase research tool provides.

How about you?

Are you shaking your fist at Google, cursing them for taking away yet another “useful” tool? Or, did you read this with Zen-like calm, knowing Google is … well … Google? Comment below and let me know!

21 Ways a Copywriter Can Help a Small Business

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If you ask a small business owner to give a presentation in public, you can see beads of perspiration forming almost immediately. That is, if your attention isn’t drawn to their knees knocking or their leg imitating a piston right where they sit.

While public speaking is a known and easy-to-admit fear of many, writing is a more subtle fear. Accepting the task is easy, but when it comes to stringing words together, many business owners are like a deer in headlights.

Just as the best speakers value speech writers, and professional athletes have coaches, business owners need copywriters and copy editors. Here are a few areas where most small businesses could use a wordsmith:

Writing Big Pieces

  • Web Page Copy: There are plenty of small business web pages filled with mangled text, piecemealed and pasted from multiple sources, not always from their own pages or brochures.
  • Ebooks: Every business owner likes to think they are an expert in their field (ask their employees). Every business owner would like a bigger mailing list. Ebooks can prove the former while building the latter.
  • Press Releases: While some writers think press releases are a thing of the past, small business owners (your potential clients) do not. In smaller towns, well written press releases can mean local media coverage.
  • Blog Posts: This type of writing is the mud where many businesses get stuck. Providing conversational copy, relevant to a targeted audience, with a clear call-to-action, often means bigger profits in less time (and agony).
  • Articles: Most business owners are not familiar with terms like article marketing, advertorials, or native advertising. They like the concept, but shy away from the writing.
  • Sales Pages and Landing Pages: Most small business owners are familiar with the concept of long-form sales letters. Few are adept at putting the copy, the callouts, and the calls-to-action together.

Small Bits & Pieces

  • Commercials: Television and radio remain a popular platform for small business advertising dollars, especially in smaller local markets. As you know, short-and-quick is not always synonymous with clear-and-concise.
  • Catalog or Product Descriptions: Small blurbs like product descriptions, catalog copy and menu items are often difficult for a small business owner. It becomes an exercise of the ketchup trying to read its own label – from inside the bottle.
  • Email: Canned responses are time savers. Template sales emails or inquiry emails can also save time and increase outreach. When written clear and concise, a small business can send these emails with confidence.
  • Display Ad Copy: From taglines to internal signage, chamber directory ads to phone books, some small businesses haven’t changed their ad copy in years.
  • Brochures: Still viewed as an expected leave behind, sales collateral like brochures and sales cards hold a lot of value to some businesses. Creativity can be a key in creating a library of copy to be used elsewhere within the business.
  • Status Updates: If a small business is active in social media, status updates read more like commercials than conversations.

Mouth Pieces

  • Speeches and Presentations: Whether the full body of the speech or an outline, some of the best presenters tap into the strengths of a writer. Presentation slideshows are often in need of a good writer or editor.
  • Profiles and Bios: A lot of business leaders have difficulty writing about themselves. Bio pages on the web, in print or media kits, and social media profiles can all use the touch of a professional writer.
  • Video and Podcast Scripts: The “ums” and “ers” along with the always popular “so” and “basically” fill video voice overs and podcast episodes across the mediums. Good writing and a tool like CuePrompter will make your clients sound eloquent when they say the words you’ve written.
  • Transcription and Re-purposing: Smart business owners are starting to realize the value of recorded presentations or conversations, capturing large portions or small money quotes they can use elsewhere. A writer or editor who can extract the value from the whole is an asset to the company.

Specialty Pieces

  • SEO Copywriting: Writing title tags, headlines, and meta data is a specialized writing skill all its own. Recognizing how to improve copy for findability is also a strength many business don’t have internally. SEO copywriting is one of the most sought after types of writing.
  • Infographics: This style of writing also requires talents for both research and design. Being able to partner with a graphics person can strengthen the copy and the flow.
  • Tutorials: Technical writing or instructional manuals are very important to many kinds of businesses. Small businesses with a high turnover of employment are often seeking operational guidelines for new employees. Manufacturers are always on the lookout for a simpler way to teach customers how to use their products.
  • Grant Writing: If writing blog posts strikes fear into the minds of a business owner, grant writing can send them running for cover.
  • Policies: Terms of service, disclaimers, and codes of conduct are sought after as more businesses launch their own websites. This type of writing often includes a back-and-forth approval process with a legal department.

A lot of small business owners will avoid writing at all costs, sometimes delegating to someone within their company. Not every business will use all of the writing types listed above. It’s likely they haven’t yet considered the possibility of most of them.

As I work with small business owners daily, writing is clearly one of their weakest areas. If you’re a copywriter, or learning to build a copywriting business, I strongly encourage you to reach out to the small business owners in your area and help them in these areas.

About the Author

Mike Sansone works with small business owners and solopreneurs in building a better business presence online and offline. He has authored the ConverStations blog since 2006. You can connect with Mike on Twitter.

14 SEO Copywriting Tips — in Haiku! [Revised]

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I often tell writers to have fun with their content. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C, you can get your point across — and establish your expertise — without sounding boring.

Today, I thought I’d take my own advice. Below you’ll find common SEO copywriting tips – written Haiku-style. Enjoy!

SEO copy
Doesn’t mean “keyphrase stuffing”
Write for people first.

Don’t “write for engines”
Google doesn’t buy from you
But your prospects do.

Know your customers
Write informative content
Focus on their needs.

Do keyphrase research
Before you write your copy
Don’t ever skip it.

Focus your content
Think about reader intent
Choose words carefully.

Synonyms are OK now
And related words
Writers can rejoice

Include benefits
Tell folks what’s in it for them
Show how you can help.

Looking for an edge?
Research long-tail keyphrases
Answer the questions.

Another idea
Experiment with headlines
Play with your wording.

Watch your messaging
Pushy sales copy won’t sell
Folks will tune you out.

Don’t talk about YOU
Talk about your customer
Focus on her needs.

Titles are crucial
Always include keyphrases
Write to get the click.

Measure your results
See what works and what doesn’t
Change up your copy.

Have fun with writing
It’s a great way to connect
Thanks for reading this!

Did you have a fun time reading this post? Cool! You’ll learn even more fun SEO writing goodness if you sign up for my free newsletter (hint, hint!)

Should You Still Create Meta Descriptions in 2016?

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Do you want more people to click on your search result — even if you’re not #1?

Masterfully-written meta descriptions have tremendous traffic-boosting powers.

In fact, Neil Patel has stated, “The meta description is the most important feature for improving click-through rate from search results pages.”

What’s more, you can write a great meta description in five minutes or less!

Here’s everything you need to know:

What’s a meta description?

The meta description is an HTML attribute summarizing the page content. In less geeky terms, the meta description proves a mini-summary of the page and describes what it’s about.

The meta description does not have an SEO benefit, although a strong meta description may entice people to click on your search listing.

(And this is where the magic happens!)

Here’s what the meta description looks like on the search engine results page:

SERP meta description

If you’re using an SEO plug-in, you’d insert your meta description in a field like this (this is from the Yoast SEO plug-in):

Post meta

 

Or, if you’re checking out the behind-the-scenes code, the meta description looks like this:

<meta name>=”description” content=”Wondering how much you should charge as a freelance copywriter? Use this guide to figure out your rate!” />

Now, here’s where things get really interesting…

Remember I mentioned the magic in meta descriptions?

Here’s why:

The meta description shows up when you share a post on social networks:

Social meta description

Plus, a masterfully-written meta description can tempt users to click on your listing over others on the search engine results page:

meta description comparison

See what’s happening here? The meta description helps “sell” the listing and encourages readers to click through.

Think of the meta description as “ad copy” rather than “back-end code,” and you can really grasp the importance.

The better your meta descriptions, the more of a chance you’ll see search and social traffic — especially when paired with a killer Title.

Plus, they’re fun (and easy) to write.

Here’s how:

5 masterful meta description-creation tips:

You’ll want to create an unique meta description for every page on your site, so it’s important to write them right.

1. Know your (character count) limits

In the past, we had about 156 characters (including spaces). Recently, Google has been testing longer descriptions — and now, you have approximately 200 characters (including spaces.) More than that, and Google will slice off your listing and show the dreaded ellipses (…)

Want to make sure you don’t push the character count limit? SEO plug-ins like Yoast’s and tools like Snippet Optimizer show you what your meta description will look like on the search engine results page.

2.  Think “clickable”

The meta description helps your listing pop off the search results page — so you’ll want to write to get the click. Use action-oriented words and a call to action to invite readers to learn more.

For instance, let’s unpack Moz’s meta description:

moz meta description

This masterful meta description for the Moz home page includes:

Social proof: “the largest community of SEOs on the planet”

Benefit statement: “Moz builds tools that make inbound marketing easy”

A call to action: “Start your free trial today!”

That’s a lot of brilliant writing within a very limited character count.

3. Clearly describe what the page is about

Yes, you want to be compelling — but you don’t want to write a cutesy, click-bait meta description that doesn’t match the page’s intent.

Think about it: people are busy. Why would your reader click on something when they weren’t 100% sure it would answer their question (or solve their problem.)

After all,

via GIPHY

Am I right? :)

4. Include keyphrases, but don’t keyphrase stuff

Keyphrases in your meta description won’t help your SEO. However, it could help your click-throughs. Here’s why:

  • The keyphrases will be bolded in the search listing. So, if someone searched for [blue widgets], the words “blue widgets” will show in the meta description.
  • Using keyphrases and related words reassures searchers your landing page contains the information they want.

So yes, include a keyphrase if it makes sense…but focus more on getting the click. Including…

5. Experiment with different CTA formats

Adding a CTA to your meta description can drive more eyeballs to your site — or even calls to your company.

For instance:

  • Does your business thrive on phone calls? Try including your phone number.
  • Raven Tools recommends action-oriented verbs like, “buy,” “shop”, “click.” “Read more” is a popular blogging CTA.
  • Neil Patel discusses how the meta description should “spark curiosity.” For instance, here’s a description that makes you want to learn more:

Match the CTA to the page’s intent and don’t be afraid to try different things. You never know what will spark the click and drive fantastic results!

Do you need more back-to-basics SEO writing tips? I share my best secrets in my free newsletter. Sign up now!

 

7 Hot Tips for Writing a Top-Converting Services Page [VIDEO]

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Want to know the secrets to writing a top-converting services page?

Unlike product pages, which are all about landing the sale, service pages are different.

It’s all about getting the lead.

With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies for capturing leads with savvy SEO copywriting.

Watch the video for all the juicy information, or check out a summary of the tips below:

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t bury your benefit statements! It’s important to address how your service can specifically help your prospect. For instance, will your service save your customers money? Help them make more money? Streamline their operations? Tell them!

Features are important– but it’s your unique sales proposition (U.S.P.) and benefit statements that will grab your prospect’s interest and make them contact you. Merely listing features makes you sound the same as everyone else providing the same or a similar service. Who wants that?

2.  Consider persona-specific landing pages

Creating landing pages specifically addressing your main targeted audiences is a powerful strategy.

Constant Contact, an email platform, used to show vertical-specific landing pages targeted towards individual industry niches. I LOVE this approach. Why? Vertical-specific pages have very cool SEO and reader benefits.

From the SEO side, vertical-specific landing pages allow you to target highly specific keyphrases, for example [email marketing for real estate agents].

From the reader side, you can tie your writing back to your customer persona and drive home the “what’s-in-it-for-them” benefits. For instance, in the case of Constant Contact, people won’t just read about how cool email marketing is — instead, they’ll read an entire page focused on the benefits of email marketing for their industry. That’s a pretty powerful message!

3.  Don’t write skimpy copy

67% of the B2B buyers’ journey is done digitally, according to Forrester Research. That means if your site offers skimpy information and little copy, you run the risk of prospects leaving your site and checking out another vendor. Remember, people won’t “just call” or send you an email. No solid services information = no sale.

4. Include solid, vertical-specific testimonials

Yes, testimonials are smart to have on your site as social proof — but they are only as credible as you make them. Whenever possible, use the full, real names of your testimonial clients rather than just initials.  The latter can look fake (however real they might be) and could prove counter-productive.

5.  Highlight your company’s overarching benefits, too

Besides individual, specific service benefits, you want to highlight the larger, big-picture benefits that your company has to offer on every single page of your website.

Do you offer free, fast shipping? Does your company offer “white-glove” services, while your competitors offer a DIY solution? Shout your overarching benefits from the rooftops!

Boring B2B and B2C companies list technical features and facts, assuming that’s all their prospect wants (or needs) to know. Don’t be like those companies! In the words of Theodore Levitt from Harvard University, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

6Pay close attention to your page Titles

Yes, Titles are very important to readers and for SEO purposes — and it’s crucial to write them right.  If you create vague, non-descript Titles with broad keywords, such as “marketing services” or “web design,” you won’t see the positions you want — nor will you see much organic search traffic.

If your Titles are so-so, consider revisiting your keyphrase research and making some strategic tweaks. You may see a boost in page positions (and search traffic) if you do!

7.  Consider conducting keyphrase research before you name your services 

A cool-sounding, unique service name may seem edgy — but it may not be intuitively searchable. Naming your service something like “Revenue $ucce$$” when you offer “accounts payable services” may make your service hard to find online.

Some companies will conduct keyphrase research before naming a service. That way, they know what words people are using to search for what they offer — and they can consider using those search terms as part of the service name.

Looking for more how-to information? Learn how to write a killer home page and a revenue-driving product page!