SEO Copywriting 101: Search Engines Ain’t That Smart
Ian Lurie Dec 16 2008
Search engines are cool, but they aren’t that bright. They don’t know that you meant ‘car’ when you typed ‘vehicle’.
If you’ve just spent 3 hours digging through a thesaurus, finding every alternative for ‘shoes’, start over. Burn the thesaurus. Think about the words that people use to find you.
Then, as a revolutionary new internet marketing strategy, actually write those words in your copy.
You’ll get more traffic.
You’ll get more sales/leads/whatever.
You may need to find the right keywords, first. I wrote about keyword selection in this article, and did a how presentation about the subject here. Plus I wrote a whole seo copywriting ebook on the subject.
That’s actually the lesson for the day. The rest of this post is a meandering rant about the same topic, over and over. I’m emulating 75% of the blogosphere in hopes that my ad revenues will go up.
The tragedy of synonym diarrhea
Many moons ago, I did some copywriting for company. Let’s call them Jane’s Web Tools. Jane, the owner, had written her home page copy, and it read like this:
“Edit your personal online space, then forward it to your friends. Put your photographs, videos and personal notes into an web-powered album for them to enjoy.”
I’ve changed the names, business and keywords to protect the innocent.
Of course, Jane was selling a blogging tool. Everyone searching for her searched for ‘blogging tool’ or ‘personal blogging tool’.
She’d fallen victim to synonym diarrhea. Somewhere in grammar school, our teachers tell us to never use the same word twice in a paragraph. If you want to be the next Herman Melville, the key is to master the language and provide a veritable cornucopia of different words that all mean the same thing. Why call something a ‘shoe’ when you can call it ‘footwear’?
Our hero rides to the rescue
My first copywriting run generated something like this:
“Create your own customizable blog. Then add your own photographs, video and even audio files. Your friends will love it!”
We went through the same exercise throughout her site.
Her traffic went up. So did her conversions. She threw out her thesaurus.
The moral of the story
Use the keywords people use to find you.
footwear shoes cycle bicycle vessel sailboat
Get the idea?
I’m not suggesting you repeat the same keyword over and over. You have to use some judgment, and your sense as a copywriter.
Nor am I suggesting you use keywords purely for the search engines. There’s no such thing as ‘picking keywords for search engines’. Search engines don’t spend their evenings and time off browsing the web on their own. People use keywords to find stuff. So, use the right keywords, and the rest will follow.
Nor am I suggesting that you start counting the number of occurrences of ‘buggy bumpers’ in your copy.
But you can emphasize the keywords and concepts that your audience will really use to find you.
- Put those keywords in your title tag;
- Put ’em in your headline;
- And put ’em early on in your page copy.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More