You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before – the body copy, i.e. the visible text on your website, is absolutely critical for good ranking. Content IS king! Why? Search engine spiders (or crawlers) don’t look at your website through human eyes. To be able to assess a site, they rely on words to provide the search engine algorithm with information about the site’s topic and content, and its relevancy and relationship with other topics or websites. The more content you have, the more text the spider can find and the more valuable your site will be to both search engines and visitors. If a site only contains images that are named “JPG1″, “JPG2″ and so on, the search engine spider has absolutely nothing to work with.
So if the importance of copywriting in search engine marketing is a well known fact, why do so many website owners still neglect this area? Put simply, because good copywriting is time-consuming and difficult. However, it is an essential part of your search engine optimization strategy, and your effort will pay off, especially if you keep the following tips in mind:
- Write for your visitors, not for search engine spiders.
Here’s a contradiction to start off with – you need to increase the text content of your site for the search engine spiders, but anything you write should be aimed at your visitors, i.e. real human beings.
- Don’t repeat yourself.
Duplicating content, that is, repeating the same text on multiple pages, may sound like an easy way to increase your site’s content, but is in actual fact a spamming technique that will get you into big trouble with search engines. Stay away from it!
- Include keywords that your visitors use.
Say you are a hotel owner in Northern California who wants to attract British tourists to your website. What search terms (or keywords) would British tourists type into a search engine when they are trying to organize their trip to California? Instead of saying “vacation in California”, British searchers would use the phrase “holiday in California”. You need to be aware of exactly what phrases people use to find the products or services you offer, and then make sure that you include those words in the body copy of your site in a natural way. This means including relevant terms often, but not too often as to appear forced or unnatural.
Here’s where the concept of “keyword density” comes into play. Keyword density measures how often a certain keyword is contained on a Web page compared to the amount of overall text content. If a keyword is mentioned 10 times within 100 words of text, the keyword density is 10%.
Keyword density is one factor that search engines use to determine the ranking of a Web page. As a rough rule of thumb, keyword density for your important search terms should be high, but not too high. Your text should always sound natural and not like you had to squeeze your keywords in with brute force. There are many different opinions on what keyword density is optimal; numbers around 5% – 10% get mentioned. However, keyword density is also becoming less important than in the past, with search engines now using more complex semantics-based algorithms. The end result is: Make sure your search terms or keywords are mentioned in your text in a natural way and don’t worry too much about exact measures.
- Add new copy regularly.
To make sure a search engine spider often visits your site, try to update your site at regular intervals. Add new pages, for example with background facts or frequently asked questions, add a news section or create an archive of past newsletters that contain valuable, durable information.
- Keep your writing simple but hard-hitting.
If you are selling products or service, your copy needs to sell your products for you. Include attention-grabbing headlines, your best offers, and expand on the benefits of your product or service. Testimonials are a great way to support sales copy; authentic customer statements make it easy for your readers to connect with your products and services.
- Longer is not always better.
Yes, you want a lot of text content including your most effective search terms on you site. But this doesn’t mean that you should start creating extra long Web pages on which visitors have to scroll down for ages before they reach the end of the page. This is neither user nor search engine friendly! If the text content is really valuable, put in on a new page and create a meaningful site structure that links the content together, while keeping your end goal – sales conversion – in mind. Why not create detailed pages on your products or services? (see Tip 4).
- Include links to other pages.
Once visitors are on your site, you don’t want to lose them again – so think carefully about how and where to include links to other sites. If you do link to other sites, ask them if they will add a reciprocal link back to you on their site. For search engine spiders, incoming links are an important way of assessing the relevancy of your site; topical inbound links will assist your link popularity. For example, say you run a hotel right next to the Pebble Beach Golf Club. If your site links to theirs in your “Local Sports & Activities” page, and they link to your site in their “Local Accommodation” section, you both win.
You can also make links within your site more search engine friendly by using keywords as links. Instead of using links like “Our guest rooms are individually decorated. Click here for a virtual tour.”, use “Take a tour of our individually decorated guest rooms now!”
- Use formatting and highlighting.
Search engine spiders take note of text formatting elements. So make sure to include your important keywords in titles and sub-titles, use bolding, bullet-pointing and other highlighting methods. For headlines, you should always use the HTML headline tags H1 to H6 to make sure the search engine spiders recognize them.
Ideally, only use one H1 tag per page, with the lower tags being section headings. Heading tags are a great way of ensuring the search engine knows exactly what topic that page is about.
- Don’t forget about your meta tags.
Meta tags from part of the HTML header of a web page, but are not displayed as visible text on your site. These tags include the title, keyword and description tags, which are important for your site’s ranking as they provide search engine spiders with additional information about your site. Some search engines also display parts of the meta tags in their search results pages. This is why you should include your most important keywords in the meta tags, but also make sure the copy appeals to potential visitors.
- Always proofread.
Make sure you get your grammar right and check for typos and spelling mistakes. Not only do errors look bad to readers, they also can negatively impact on your ranking. If you consistently spelled “vacation” as “vaccation”, your site won’t be included in the search results when search engine users search for “California vacation”.