Basic SEO Copywriting in a Nut Shell
Tom Schmitz May 27 2008
This week Portent Interactive is excited to welcome our newest member of the team, copywriter Amanda Halm. Hi Amanda!
Jade asked me to write some SEO copywriting pointers that I just finished. Since these sound so proprietary-like, I just had to sneak them past Ian to share with you. So enjoy and *shhhh* Don't tell the boss.
Select one to four keywords.
Writing friendly copy for organic search is all about targeting specific search engine queries. Select one to four search queries that will fit within a 65 characters. Selecting more than four queries will dilute your page content and make it difficult to rank for your target queries.
Write the Title Element/Tag
Your title element, also called the title tag, should state the overall them of the page. If you are creating a common theme on your web site you should include the target theme query too.
Google only shows up to 65 characters. Your home page and primary topic pages should keep within this limit. Deeper pages may be given longer title elements.
If you have space, include an adjective that will make the title element more appealing. For example Surf Boards are great, but Wicked Surf Boards is click-worthy.
Write the Meta Description Element/Tag
The meta description is a 155 excerpt or summary of the web page. Unique meta descriptions will not help a web page rank well, but duplicate meta descriptions can hurt search engine rankings. Therefore, it is important for every page to have a unique meta description tag.
Search engines use the meta description as their content in search engine result pages (SERPs). This create an opportunity to capture visitors by making the most compelling and clickable description possible.
Remember to include a call to action. Visit Tori Richards for the coolest authentic Hawaiian style shirts in the Universe. Limited edition Santa drag racing sleigh designs are here!
If the page is to be used in a link building campaign
Write five alternate title tags and five alternate descriptions for the link builder to use. Unlike the HTML title tag, these do not have to have every keyword in every title and description. When all five versions are placed together, though, all of the target keywords must be represented.
Craft the HTML Skeleton
SEO friendly web pages are built using HTML outlines to support paragraph text. Think of the outline as the skeleton and the paragraph text as all of the meat, muscle, and sinew that hangs clings to the skeleton. They are also like outlines for English term papers.
H# tags are important signals for telling search engines what is important on an HTML page. Because they are standard tags the search engines can recognize them and accord them influence.
Do not use h# elements in navigation or for in templates. These should be styles by using CSS.
The h1 element
The h1 element is much like a web site’s title tag. It should state the overall purpose of the page and include all of the target keywords. There should be only one h1 element on a HTML page.
The h2 element
The h2 element may be used either as a sub headline directly beneath the h1 or to denote a section of content within the page.
As a sub headline the h2 should appear directly after the h1 tag and include the most important of the target keywords.
To denote content the h2 should be used in the same way that English term paper outlines use I. II. III. Etc. Each should denote a major section of the web page. Each h2 should include the target search query or queries for its section.
The h3 element
The h3 element may be used either as a sub headline directly beneath the h2 or to denote sections of content between h2 elements.
As a sub headline the h3 should appear directly after each h2 tag and include the most important of the target keywords.
To denote content the h3 should be used in the same way that English term paper outlines use A. B. C. Etc. Each should denote a major section of the web page. Each h3 should include the target search query or queries for its section.
The h4, h5 and h6 elements
I am sure you recognized the similarity between the h2 and the h3 elements. The h4, h5, h6 are used in the same manner and continue the hierarchy.
Most web pages will not use h4, h5, and h6 as it is rare to break down a HTML page so precisely.
Paragraph text and span text
In paragraph text employ liberal use of the target keywords, especially the ones that correspond to the h# section you are in.
Use different forms of the keywords including adverbs, present tense, past tense, singulars, plurals and others.
Use related words that one might naturally expect to encounter. For example, if you are writing about baseball include words like bat, ball, glove, strike, and home run.
When reading about SEO you may see the term keyword density. This is the percentage of keyword text compared to all text on the page.
In earlier days, getting the correct keyword density was an important part of search engine optimization. Expert recommendations ranged from 4% to 7% and even higher. Today, no one correct keyword density exists. If you look at the keyword density for any search engine results page, you will find that the density fluctuates wildly from listing to listing.
Instead, we recommend packing pages as tightly as possible with target keywords and their variations and related words…that is, as tightly as possible while still sounding normal. Once you begin to sound robotic it is time to pull it back a bit.
Usability for people, not SEO
While this article is about writing copy for SEO, do not forget that most pages are for people too.
On the Internet people like to scan more than read. They prefer short, easy to view navigation. They like white space. They like brief paragraphs and short stories. Readers particularly enjoy bulleted and numbers lists, italics, bolding, indentations, and anything else that makes a story easier to parse visually and absorb.
No one will read a 1,000-word article unless they drilled down to and found exactly the content they sought.