by Amy Fowler
Search engine optimization is a tricky business. Most people are aware of the importance of keywords and structuring pages so that they are search engine friendly, but there’s still a misconception that creating SEO friendly copy is a complicated, dark art. The truth is, it’s not hard to turn any copy into something SEO friendly. The most important thing, for most pages, is putting together copy that is clear, concise, and easy for humans to read.
Clear Text is Best for Online Marketing
Many webmasters make the mistake of writing keyword-stuffed sales pages that are designed with SEO in mind, but are difficult for humans to read. It’s one thing to work in the occasional keyword or phrase, but if you’re twisting the rules of grammar and trying to force awkward phrases into every paragraph, you’re only going to annoy your visitors.
Instead of focusing on SEO when you start writing your web copy, try thinking about what you want to say from an online marketing perspective. Write your product information pages, sales pages, and other web copy using clear, natural language, and then come back and think about the SEO side of things once the bulk of the text is in place.
Search Engines are Getting Smarter
Back in the early days of the World Wide Web, search engines weren’t very clever. Some search engines relied on meta tags almost exclusively, while others had basic parsing capabilities, but these were easy to manipulate.
Some of the tricks that people used to manipulate early search engines are still floating around as “golden rules” on some online marketing forums. Tricks such as keyword stuffing, using keywords in headers and in page names, and making your keywords appear in bold text are still common suggestions.
Search engines do use the presence of keywords in file names and in the page title as indications of the importance of those keywords. They also care about headings, and bold text, although the impact of bold or strong tags is minimal.
Today, search engines care more about the quality of your copy. Google in particular is constantly working on improving the quality of their indexes. With each update, they are working towards the goal of making it so that all webmasters have an equal chance of ranking well, even if they don’t do a lot of SEO work.
Edit Great Copy for SEO – Don’t Write SEO Copy
Google encourages people to write good copy, and let SEO follow, and this is good advice. If you have a high quality, informative, well written article, post it as-is. Make your keywords appear in bold a couple of times, and consider adding lots of headings – both to improve the readability of your article, and to increase the number of times your keywords appear.
If your CMS has any search engine optimization features, make use of them to add keywords, rich meta descriptions, and other things that will help search engines understand your content, but don’t spend too much time on this. Focus on writing copy your readers will love. If you do that, the search engines will find it.