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Are You Letting Search Engine Copywriting Defeat or Discourage You?

Where there’s a search engine, copywriting must follow

Once upon a time at another company, far far away, the editorial director wandered over to the marketing department and asked me to rework the leads in the articles our highly-educated writers were producing. These articles were written about the business side of the biopharma and device industries, and could by their very nature be rather dry, which was unfortunate because the leads were used as teasers to sell individual articles online.

The marketing director eventually found me cowering in the ladies’ room.

Having been a journalist myself, I knew that writers value their journalistic integrity more than anything, and I was terrified that I’d be shot at dawn by a pack of proud PhDs. I agreed to do it only upon promise of anonymity.

Article sales went up, and the company founder begged me to rework entire articles and train the staff how to make their work more reader-friendly. Eventually I was beaten into submission, and while working with the writers, I managed to convince them that making their leads more enticing, creating multiple points of entry into lengthy articles with subheads and sidebars, and breaking up text into shorter paragraphs would actually give their work a wider audience. That seemed to satisfy them. Thank heaven.

Why am I telling this story? Because gaining a wider audience is still a business-critical mission for publishers, whether it’s your paid content or your marketing material, and the ascendance of Google means that the most important way to do it is with search engine copywriting. No matter how much content producers and copywriters may pride themselves on their education, erudition and professionalism, if no one reads their work, it doesn’t really exist.

Make search engine copywriting your writers’ priority

At Mequoda, we preach a holistic approach to marketing content. Everyone who creates text of any kind should understand search engine copywriting dynamics and be comfortable with using keywords to develop content and to make content and marketing materials findable by your audience through the various search engines. As Chris Sturk has explained in an evergreen blog post, search engine copywriting is a service to your audience and fundamental to growing your online publishing business, and makes your content widely shareable.

But it’s admittedly a challenge to get comfortable with search engine copywriting, especially for those who were not taught how to do it right along with learning to write in the first place – in short, everyone older than about 28.

After all, most writers today have spent a lot of time learning to craft quality copy using whatever words suited them. Suddenly we’re being told to force-fit specific words and phrases into our sparkling copy – impossible!

But it’s not impossible. In fact, after 20 years as a journalist and marketing writer pre-Internet, I was getting jaded, and welcomed the challenge to take my skills to a new level. So should any writer worth his or her salt.

Search engine copywriting in four steps

There are many ways to start becoming fluent in search engine copywriting, but here are four steps that we can recommend:

Search engine copywriting Step 1: Look over your list of desired keywords in the same way you would study any material that will help you formulate your ideas. Now study any other material that’s relevant – the subject you’re writing about or the product you’re selling. Let the keywords fall away while you’re doing this.

Search engine copywriting Step 2: Write your first draft with thought to those keywords. You’re still working from those other relevant materials, just as you would have done in the days before the Internet and Google came along to make search engine copywriting mandatory.

Search engine copywriting Step 3: When the first draft is finished, walk away. Don’t rewrite, don’t polish, and don’t try to worry about search engine copywriting. Get in a workout. Cook dinner. Get away from your work.

Search engine copywriting Step 4: When you return to your work, later the same day or, as I prefer, the next day when I’m fresh, you’re allowed to look over your keywords again and finally start looking where you can insert them. The keywords aren’t foreign to what you’re writing, they’re related, so they can easily be inserted into the copy, which will still sound natural. You may find that you’ve already used some of them without realizing it! Here’s an example:

Non-optimized copy

Dear Colleague,

That employee who’s making everyone in your department angry, bitter and argumentative … you know exactly how to deal with him. Not only can you successfully deflect his attacks on you, you also know how to ease his conflicts with coworkers and get the team working together again.

You’re a leader. You read Negotiation.

That proposed merger with an Asian competitor … you’re the person your company trusts to keep the discussions productive and on track despite enormous cultural differences.

You’re a mediator. You read Negotiation.

That dream house you have your eye on already has multiple bids, some higher than what you can afford … you get the deal because you learned how to sweeten your offer with more than just money.

You’re a winner. You read Negotiation.

Keyword phrases to be added:

Conflict management
Negotiation training
Mediation
Business negotiations

Optimized copy:

Dear Colleague,

That employee who’s making everyone in your department angry, bitter and argumentative … you know exactly how to deal with him. Using your conflict management and mediation skills, you not only successfully deflect his attacks on you, you also ease his conflicts with coworkers and get the team working together again.

You’re a leader. You read Negotiation.

That proposed merger with an Asian competitor … you’re the person your company trusts to keep business negotiations productive and on track despite enormous cultural differences.

You’re a mediator. You read Negotiation.

That dream house you have your eye on already has multiple bids, some higher than what you can afford … you get the deal because your negotiation training and expertise in business negotiations taught you how to sweeten your offer with more than just money.

You’re a winner. You read Negotiation.

Successful search engine copywriting isn’t something you master overnight, but any good writer should be able to step up pretty quickly and contribute to your organization’s SEO efforts. Let’s face it, being able to Google your keywords and find your work on Page 1 is a gratifying confirmation of your skills that was never available before the Internet arrived! So get practicing, and may all your golden words land you on Google Page 1!

Oh, and if you have any other tips for helping your fellow writers master search engine copywriting, please share them with the community.

Posted in Audience Development Strategy

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4 thoughts on “Are You Letting Search Engine Copywriting Defeat or Discourage You?

  1. Mary says:

    Thanks boss… 🙂

  2. Amanda says:

    Great post Mary. It’s so hard to convince writers that SEO is a service to your readers and even to yourself!

    1. Mary says:

      Agreed, Amanda, we need to spread the word!

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