I remember my first SEO copy job. I recoiled in resistance when learning what it entailed. You mean I have to squeeze all of these clunky, cliché words into my glorious prose? What will happen to my conversational voice, my rhythmic cadence, my distinctive language?
I eyed our SEO advisor as my adversary. All he cared about was stats and hits. But as I listened more to his case, I understood he empathized with my challenge. I also understood that SEO is a valuable step in any website development, assuming you want to generate more traffic, leads and job applications (not just compliments).
So I approached the job as a puzzle worth solving. I must admit my first draft was not too smooth, but after dozens of SEO copy jobs in recent years, I’ve learned a few tips for making the process and results more palatable.
Gather your keywords prior to writing copy. This may seem obvious, but I have experienced several occasions when I have had to retrofit keywords to copy because the SEO step somehow slipped through the cracks.
You may have many keywords. That doesn’t mean you have to use them all or cram them all into your first paragraph. In fact, “keyword stuffing” or content with unnatural keyword density will actually perform worse than more organically written copy that sprinkles keywords throughout the text. Good SEO writing is a balancing act between art and science. Prioritize keywords that are most relevant, and use them where they seem to fit naturally.
Some people think that repeating keywords will increase your ranking. The problem is your copy will be annoyingly redundant. Instead, use LSI keywords. LSI (or latent semantic indexing) is basically a technical term for using well-chosen synonyms for your keywords. Use a primary keyword once on a page or sparingly throughout your site, then pepper in a few LSI keywords for copy that gets great results without sounding like a mynah bird.
Before putting pen to paper, use your keyword in a conversational sentence or sales pitch. Think about how your customer would use it in conversation. Look for ways for it to appear in a natural context and roll off the tongue. You don’t have to lead with it. You can end with it. Just put it anywhere that feels natural, not shoehorned in.
Look for ways to integrate your keywords in less expected or more creative ways. This is especially true for words that are too technical, trite or not quite aligned with your brand personality. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have fun with it. Use it with compelling or fun language that’s on brand. Once I had the enviable task of selling “inductively coupled plasma optical emission”. Instead of just stating “We offer…”, I wrote “Trust us. Inductively coupled plasma optical emission is a lot easier to use than it is to say.”
- If keywords don’t accurately describe your company or product, treat them as such. Recently I had to use the word “ad agency” in our website copy. The problem is we’re so much more than a typical ad agency. So, I wrote, “More than an ad agency, we help you…”
- Put them in a testimonial quote. If your keyword would sound better coming from an industry expert or advocate of your business, create a quote from said expert or advocate using the word, and add it your site.
- Put them in an infographic header. If your keyword just doesn’t sound good in your copy, can it live in a header for an infographic or image? Google won’t recognize text in images, but you could write it as text above or below the image.
Regardless of the rules of SEO, writing that engages your audience and stays true to your brand is always the best approach for your copy. And whether you view keywords as an asset to your copy or a pain in your keester, there are ways to integrate them without butchering a nice read, even if you have to be sneaky about it. Did you notice how cleverly I worked “latent semantic indexing” into this blog?