The #1 Deadliest SEO Copywriting Sin

dreamstime_7297345Recently, a couple blog posts have focused on the “deadly sins” of SEO copywriting and content marketing. Michelle Bowles from TopRank Marketing showcases five tips for avoiding deadly SEO copywriting sins. An old (now offline) post from GrokDotCom reminds us that “Nobody wants to read your sh**! These articles are funny, informative and (for some) may hit very close to home.

Yet, I was surprised that no-one pointed out the #1 SEO copywriting sin. And that’s creating keyphrase-stuffed copy.

I’ve ranted about this SEO copywriting sin before. Somehow, people really do believe that SEO copywriting means seeing how many times you can force-feed a keyphrase into site copy. They aren’t worried about creating a customer persona. They aren’t worried about developing persuasive benefit statements. Heck, they aren’t even worried about their online image (after all, keyphrase-stuffed copy tends to read like it was written by a third grader.) Instead, it’s all keyphrases – all the time. And as a result, conversions suffer.

If you’re guilty of this sin (and a lot of companies are, both big and small,) here’s how you can repent:

  • Locate your “most sinful” pages. They may be the articles you paid $15 for that repeat your main keyphrase over and over. It may be your home page that you made more “keyphrase heavy” in an attempt at a higher ranking. Simply start out by figuring out what pages could use a rewrite – and you can develop the editorial plan later.
  • Find a new writer (or train your existing one.) Some writers keyphrase-stuff their copy because they honestly don’t know any better. If you’re working with a in-house writer, it may make more sense to sign her up for a SEO copywriting training or conference to refine her skills. If the “sinful” writing was created by an outsourced professional, consider hiring someone else. If you’re paying good money for SEO copywriting services, you deserve to have a quality product.
  • Plan your writing/editing schedule. Rewriting web pages just feels overwhelming, doesn’t it? After all, once you’ve created them, it seems frustrating that you’d have to create them again. The rewriting process goes much more smoothly if you figure on rewriting X pages a month, rather than thinking you have 50 pages to revamp right now.
  • Review your keyphrases again before you start writing. Don’t assume that they keyphrases you currently have on the page are the “right” ones.  Depending on the person who did your keyphrase research and how long it’s been since you’ve done it, there could be a plethora of more targeted phrases you could use. Once you’ve chosen your per-page keyphrases, it’s always a good idea to spot-check them in Google to see the other results that come up. Sometimes, what seems like the “perfect” keyphrase may not be as relevant as you think.
  • Consider other SEO content marketing strategies to help reinforce your keyphrase relevancy. Once reason people keyphrase stuff is because they want a high ranking on that phrase – but they do that at the expense of what their copy sounds like. Remember that you can create blog posts, articles, press releases, FAQ pages and other web page that contain your “money” keyphrases – and seeding the phrase throughout your site will help increase relevancy.
  • Always, always write copy for your customers -not the search engines. I guarantee you that Google doesn’t care about the money you make from your site (unless it’s being moved to their side of the table.) But you do. You care a lot. If you want your web pages to both position well and convert, take the time to write your pages right the first time (or hire a SEO copywriter who will.) Develop your competitive analysis. Figure out what’s in it for your customer. Work with your benefit statements. Develop an engaging tone and feel – whatever that means to your audience. The hardest part of SEO copywriting is preparing to write. Believe me, once you have this part down – the rest will flow easily. And you’ll have the perfect combination of well-written, keyphrase-rich content that converts like crazy.
8 replies
  1. Jacob Stoops says:

    As an SEO, copywriting presents an often funny conundrum. Most sites that land on my desk are usually one of two polar opposites: sites that have little or no relevant content, or sites that are just stuffed to the brim with target keywords. Either way it’s annoying!

    I try to educate my clients on the best ways to write ad copy – by first writing it for the user, then going back and reviewing how the content looks for search engines – then making the necessary tweaks to ensure a good balance (and no force feeding).

    I think this is along the lines of what you’re saying…

    • Heather says:

      Exactly! So many people think that “writing for search engines” is just about filling their page to the brim with keyphrases. Or, they go the opposite direction and don’t have enough copy on their pages (or don’t want keyphrases because they’re convinced that the copy sounds funny.) Good job for educating your clients! Not every SEO does that – and unfortunately, that hurts their clients.

      FYI, if your clients need more writing help, we are relaunching our online SEO copywriting training on October 12. You can check out the details here:


  2. Sumeet Chawla says:

    I am newbie when it comes to SEO and copy writing and this article was really helpful to me..Though I never think about the keywords while writing content for my site but next time I write content, I will keep these points in mind… Thanks!
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Brynn says:

    Jacob – great tip on how to write SEO content that is natural yet search engine effective. Write for the user first and then tweak for keyphrases after. I find that after a while of writing SEO content, inputting keywords during writing becomes easier, and the two steps can be combined.

    • Heather says:

      You’re right (and so is Jacob!) It does get easier to write for the search engines after you’ve done it awhile. Most people have problems when they first start out – but once they understand the flow and how to naturally incorporate keyphrases, they’re golden! Thanks for your post!


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