The days when web copy, especially SEO copy, could focus merely on getting higher rankings from search engines are over. The game has shifted from high page ranking to actually getting found. For example, recent research indicates that people are searching increasingly for longer phrases, not just simple keywords. In SEO jargon, the keyword tails are getting longer. And this means that producing effective web copy is becoming more of an art, although a savvy art.
High Quality Web Copy
Briefly stated, high quality web copywriting accomplishes a client’s desired objective. Usually, effectiveness is measured by the number of “conversions” or the number of persons who take the action intended by the client (e.g., purchasing, calling, providing an email address or other contact info, signing up for a newsletter). And copy that produces conversions generally exhibits the following characteristics:
- Writing that is error-free and grammatically correct (not to be taken for granted!)
- Attractive, easy-to-scan formatting (headings, short paragraphs, etc.)
- Keyword appropriateness (natural employment of relevant keywords and their customer-friendly variations)
- Keyword use in page titles, URLs, meta-tags, headings, and body
- Conversion-focused links within page content and easy navigation to action location
- Inclusion of emotion-laden terms in a manner that is natural and appropriate
- Frequent, but not overbearing, “asking for the sale”
Clearly, traditional strategies for producing effective web copy are still necessary, but improvements in search engine sophistication and people’s interactive use of the web provoke some shifts in producing effective web copy.
Returning to Basics
Bearing in mind all of the above, effective web copy means, more than ever, writing for human beings, not search engines. While it is important to have longer keyword phrases in mind (quick sources for such phrases include Google’s auto-fill suggestions for a search or “searches related” to a keyword), it is impossible to include all of the possible variations for a keyword or phrase on a single page or even an entire website. Rather, it is necessary to crawl inside a customer’s head, perhaps by paying attention to search statistics and successful competitors’ sites, in order to include words and phrases that customers naturally use.
For example, a customer searching for a plumber might use the word, “plumber,” in a search. But the search also might focus on “how to fix a leaky faucet”or “installing a hot water heater.” A writer who can empathetically identify a customer’s problem or desire and then speak to that will be more effective. In other words, effective web copy focuses on the potential customer and her or his problems, not on the business that is represented. Moreover, if the copy works, the results will show up in more conversions. Tweaking for more conversions, therefore, is a never-ending process.
One final point: With increased ability of search engines and internet vendors to track users’ geographical location and search preferences, searches are becoming more local and more personalized. Especially for small businesses, this means that effective web copy must focus on localized searches and that effective websites must contain pages oriented toward existing or previous customers. Copy that establishes relationships will become crucial, especially in an environment of burgeoning use of social media. But that is a subject for another day.