Stop the Slaughter of Innocent Copy! Are Keywords Ruining Your Content?

by Karon Thackston

Here's advice on how you can write naturally and still include enough keywords to please the search engines.

It's one of the worst things to ever happen in the search engine copywriting field: the discovery of keyword density. I won't venture off into a discussion about whether keyword density is still a valid measure of search engine optimized (SEO) copywriting success. I will say, however, that the mere introduction of this concept led to the mutilation and destruction of innocent copy all across the globe. Without any regard to flow or customer experience, website owners around the world began shoving keyphrases into their copy like wild men. The results have been disastrous! Otherwise wonderful content has been utterly destroyed. This slaughter of innocent copy must stop!

All joking aside, the realization several years ago that keyword density was a factor in search engine rankings instantly transformed the landscape of copywriting for the engines. That lone concept lit a fire under people who absolutely butchered their copy for the sake of the engines. A pity really because it doesn't have to be that way.

Keep It Sounding Natural

One primary goal is to write copy so that the keyphrases are virtually undetectable when read by someone with no knowledge of SEO. One vital step in making this happen is to carefully research and select your keyphrases.

If you're writing a page about wedding gowns, it would be complicated to include keyphrases such as "wedding reception music" or "wedding caterers." The amount of traffic these terms might bring would be offset by the awkward fit with the focus of your page. Instead, opt for phrases that lend themselves directly to the topic of wedding gowns.

One common mistake many site owners and newbie copywriters make is to replace every single instance of a generic key term with one of their chosen keyphrases. Doing this in moderation is certainly acceptable, but frequently copywriters get carried away with tragic results.

For example, you would not want to have the following copy on your site:

Spanish Villas For Rent

If you are looking for Spanish villas vacations, search our site for the best deals in Spanish villas. No other Spanish villas site has the selection of premium Spanish villas with the most sought after locations that we have. View some of our Spanish villas pictures or take virtual tours of our Spanish villas today.



Whew! I get tired just reading that! Not only is it extremely annoying to read, but also many of the phrases are used incorrectly, making it look as though there are typos on the page. Not a pretty sight!

To keep your copy sounding as natural as possible, you need to think outside the keyword box. Most often, people believe that writing in a similar manner as the example above is the only way to use keywords in copy. Not true! In fact, far from it.

Let me share three of my favorite tips with you for creative writing with keyphrases.

Don't Use Keyphrases To Describe Your Products/Services

That's right, I said DON'T use keyphrases to describe your own products or services. Instead, use them to describe what your product or service is not, or what it is similar to or what it is better than.

An example of this is any keyphrase that begins with the word "cheap." "Cheap insurance," "cheap sunglasses," "cheap software" - the list is endless. It's simply not a good idea to call your own product cheap. Yes, I understand that people are looking for cheap things, but that is because they don't want to pay a lot. When THEY call your product cheap, it is in relation to price. When YOU call your own product or service cheap, it degrades the product or service's perceived value.

Instead, let others know that your product is NOT cheap. For example:

Unlike cheap travel insurance offered by other underwriters, our policies have provided long-standing, publicly held companies with a history of exceptional customer service. You get affordable coverage and peace of mind.

The phrase is highly relevant to the page, you get to attract lots of visitors, and the copy is set to convince them that "cheap insurance" isn't what they really wanted after all.

How about this one? I got an email from a student asking me how to use the phrase "doggie litter box" in his copy even though that was not what he was selling. His product was a replacement for the doggie litter box, so I suggested he use the phrase in exactly that way. Here's what I would have done:

Here's a great solution for that messy doggie litter box. Attractive, compact and easy to use even in the smallest apartments, [Name of Product] is destined to replace the doggie litter box forever!

See? You aren't calling your product a litter box; rather you are positioning yourself against it to show how you are better.

Add A Word

Another frequent stumbling block for SEO copywriters is the use of phrases that seem to end abruptly. In these cases, simply add a word to the end. Here are two examples.

The phrase "web design for small business" seems out of place because, most often, we would use the plural term (small businesses) when we were writing. To correct the problem, just add a plural word to the end of the phrase. Perhaps you might talk about web design for small business startups or web design for small business owners. You get the idea.

Break It Up

When the phrases get too long, it is often best to break them up. Search engines don't pay attention to standard punctuation marks or line breaks. They read right through periods, commas, semi-colons and the like without hesitation. That means you have a lot more flexibility than you might think.

One keyphrase I had to work with was "Texas Hill Country real estate." That would get pretty cumbersome if it were left as it is seen there. But by breaking it up with some punctuation, it sounds perfectly natural. Here's how it can be done.

There is no more beautiful place than the Texas Hill Country. Real estate listings in this area are filled with stunning homes that.

Do you see what happened? I broke the phrase up using a period. In the eyes of the search engines the phrase is still intact. They don't even notice the period. That period, however, causes the reader to take a mental pause and helps alleviate any repetitive feel to the copy.

If you take the time to look at SEO copywriting as an art rather than an assembly line task, your content will sound more natural, will convert better and will help prevent further additions to the already overcrowded collection of tortured copy everywhere!.

Copyright 2007, Karon Thackston, All Rights Reserved

Karon is Owner and CEO of Marketing Words, Inc. who offers targeted copywriting, copy editing & ezine article services. Visit her website at http://www.marketingwords.com

 

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