“How do I do this? Is there anything I should know if I need to write content later?”
I don’t think clients are prepared for the firestorm of answers to this seemingly simple question. Although the question phrasing differs from client to client, the gist is the same. SEO writing and writing for the web are completely different than the writing you learned in school, and for some people the separate set of rules can be challenging to understand and emulate. We offer a decent range of writing services here (please inquire for more details J), and each follows a distinctive set of rules. There is no unequivocal equation for SEO writing, but there are some broad guidelines that typically apply across the board. When my clients ask the #1 question, here’s what I generally explain to them:
General Online Content Guidelines:
– You’re writing for the internet: I realize I mentioned this already, but it’s important enough to mention twice. Some businesses are more technical than others and require industry-specific jargon, but otherwise you generally want to use colloquial speech that is quick to read and easy to understand for a wide range of people. Your content is meant to sell a product or inform visitors, so it needs to be useful to them. Keep sentences short and highlight useful nuggets. They want to get in and get out with tidbits of useful information, and shorter sentences allow that.
– Grammar doesn’t always apply: I know it’s hard. I understand it hurts you. But really, starting sentences with “and” or “but” is sometimes appropriate. Same with sentence fragments. Grammar rule-breaking isn’t a requirement, but if you’re crunched for space, playing with the grammar is a handy tool.
– Unique, Unique, Unique: Duplicated content seriously hurts your chances of being indexed by search engines. If you and 100 other pages have the same content, you have a 1/100 chance of being pulled in the search results. This includes pages that take content from you – don’t allow them to do that. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this: duplicate content inhibits your site from showing up in search results. WRITE YOUR OWN CONTENT.
– Call to action: If you’re selling something, this is important. Start your sentences with a command, or “call to action,” that will inspire visitors to buy your product or service. However, try to depart from general words like “buy” and “get.” Capture their attention with a question that piques their interest or a solution to their problems. Be stealthy about this – you want to appeal to them, not turn them off by overtly attempting to make a sale.
Example: Let’s just say you sell cats (I like cats, it was the first thing that came to mind). Instead of “Buy our Cats,” say “Create a calming environment, lower blood pressure, and reduce daily stresses…” Another option is, “are you looking for a companion that will love you unconditionally and won’t ever let you down?” Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets lonely, and the cats you sell are the solution to those problems.
– Order is important: Place crucial, selling information first and the less useful, fluffy stuff last. The goal of your visitors is to get in and out in the fraction of a second with as much useful information as possible, so you want the major points to be easily accessible. The first paragraph is the most important, and flows into less significant information. This is called the inverted pyramid.
– So is tone: Don’t scream at them. Relay information in an interesting and informative way, and talk to visitors like you would a friend. When you recommend items to friends, you certainly wouldn’t scream at them (or maybe you would, in which case you should probably stop). You would explain the benefits of the product, what it fulfills, and why you really enjoyed using it. In addition, the site copy is for the reader, so say “you” and “your” more than “we” and “us.”
SEO Writing/Optimizing Content Guidelines:
– 150 words MINIMUM: Through extensive research, we have concluded that search engines typically index pages with 150+ words because they consider it to be valuable to visitors. The job of a search engine is to pull the best information for the search, and the best information is considered to have a 150 word minimum. Translation: you have a better chance of showing up in the search results if you have 150+ words. The more content, the better.
– Order is important: In the meta-descriptions, try to mention keywords in order from strongest à weakest. The body should mention the keywords as close to the top of the paragraph as possible and also in the order of strongest à weakest. This should be done in a way that still allows the content to sound natural.
– Use keywords more than once: You want to have a good “keyword density.” Too few keywords won’t get you indexed in the search results, but too many keywords looks fishy. A general rule I like to follow is to mention each keyword about 2x in every 150 word block. For instance, a 300 word block would ideally have each keyword in there about 4x. However, this is not an exact science, and does not take precedence over quality, natural sounding content.
– But don’t go overboard: Resist the urge to keyword stuff. It reads poorly and it may actually work retroactively with SEO processes. When people visit your site, keyword stuffing jibberish not only looks unprofessional, but they learn nothing about your product and may be less likely to buy from you.
Hopefully you’ll be able to use this in your business venture. The most important thing to keep in mind about writing for your online business is that you are the expert. You know your business, your audience, and your products better than anyone else, so use your best judgment when writing for it.