You Can’t Make A Silk Purse Out of A Sow’s Ear: SEO Copywriting and Poorly-Converting Pages

Oh. My. Goodness. The writing was horrible.

The Web page copy was a sight for sore eyes — literally. The run-on sentences made my eyes cross. Rampant comma use forced my eyes to pause after ever third word. And please, please tell me — what does this paragraph even mean?

In short, this was not conversion-based SEO writing. This was a mess.

The person in charge of the horribly-written page was the new marketing director — and she had just inherited the Website. One upon a time, her company had hired a cheapie writer who created copy for $50 a page. The result was a garbled mess. When I asked why they even accepted the copy as-is, she said, “My boss thought that’s what SEO copywriting was supposed to look like.”

When I asked how I could help, she said, “Can’t you just tweak it a little so it sounds better and throw in some keywords?”

Sigh. No, no I can’t. And that’s because, as my father used to say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. To translate: If the copy is already bad, “tweaking” it won’t help. The only thing you can do is scrap it all and start over.

So many people are afraid of total page rewrites — especially if the page is positioning well. Their first concern (which makes sense) is “if we change the page, what happens to our rankings.” At the same time, getting rankings is just a slice of the search engine conversion pie. After all, a top position means nothing if that page doesn’t drive your conversion metrics.

Wondering if your site falls into the “sow’s ear” category? Here are some things to check:

  • What do your analytics say? Are people staying at your site — or bouncing out mere seconds after they arrive?
  • Are your rankings so-so, but your conversions are non-existent?
  • Do you know deep, deep down in your heart that the copy is bad (C’mon, it’s OK to admit it. We’ve all been there.)

If you’re feeling like your copy qualifies for “sow’s ear” status, you are certainly not alone. Know that you’re in good company, but don’t let your rankings neurosis overcome your good sense. To eliminate your sow’s-ear status, your only help for salvation is action. Yes, there are ways to rewrite the copy so the rankings aren’t decimated. In fact, that’s the easy part (and we’ll talk about the how-to in a future post.) A smart copywriter can easily craft new copy that maintains your past keyword positioning.

Will rewriting your copy be painful? A little bit. Yes, you will be spending time and money to make it happen. And yes, the pain is definitely worth it. Although a SEO copywriting overhaul sounds grueling, it will more than pay for itself in increased conversions. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have the “silk purse” copy your site deserves?

5 replies
  1. Patsi Krakoff, The Blog Squad says:

    My daddy used that old silk purse and sow’s ear metaphor in an affectionate way whenever I was fishing for a compliment…! You are so right, Heather, it’s amazing what kind of jumbled content can result when people focus on writing for the search engines instead of writing for their customers. Write for the customers first, then rewrite and edit with an eye open for keywords: this always works better for our pages and posts.

  2. Heather says:

    Hi, Patsi!

    Our fathers must have known each other – except mine would whip out that saying whenever I was getting ready for a date.:) You’re exactly right – write for customers first and foremost. Always.


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