Web content and digital marketing

SEO Copywriters – please….. step away from the crowbar

In the people vs. robots war, it’s important to make sure the people win but we have to throw the SEO bots a bone now and again.

Many, many years ago when I was in primary school, I had a teacher who looked out the window most days after dinner, would pause thoughtfully and say….’ put this word in an everyday sentence.. ‘. He’d then choose a random word, sing it out like a morning radio DJ and sit down to read the paper (dramatisation, may or may not have happened).

So, we each took out a crowbar/hurl, placed it on the desk in front of us before using it to jam some mild mannered noun into a crowded and uncooperative sentence. But hey, we got it…in a sentence. Job done? Not quite.

This was a reasonable foundation for my career as a copy/web writer. Forcing words into places they really don’t want to go will get you through fifth class but I’ve had to lose my crowbar to cut it in copywriting. That one teaching approach has probably produced a gifted generation of Irish SEO copywriters. And we’re decommissioning more and more crowbars every day.

As a web content writer, my clients range from leading digital agencies to web development houses and sole traders. Some have serious resources and specialists in-house, some are a bit more stretched. Whatever way they want me to work, I’ll do it.

Where possible, I like to do the SEO content bit myself. That means I provide keyword research, title tags, meta descriptions for SERPs and recommend urls. Bigger clients have SEO specialists in-house and like me to work with them so they do the keyword analysis – once we’ve had a chat about message, audience, tone and similar issues.  Anyway, either way I get a list of keywords and phrases to weave into my copy.

Ideally, this list is on a page by page basis. If not, you’ll need to decide which words are relevant to which pages.

Weaving words that score high on Word Tracker/Google adword tool is easy enough. Weaving in these words so it looks like they haven’t been weaved in…is not. For example, don’t tack them onto the end of the paragraph in the form of a catch-all sentence – that’s a giveaway. Other important web copy issues include keyword analysis and maintaining the correct keyword density percentages and keyword synonym identification.

Looks pretty stupid alright.


So, you’ve got the list of words and phrases on a page by page basis. What next?

Don’t look at them in too much detail just yet.

Then, write your first draft. Have a look over your list and see how many have fallen in naturally. You probably have got at least one or two in already.

Take the next key phrase and look for the keyword crevice (trademark pending) one sentence at a time. Drop it in.

Ok, you’ve got one left and it won’t stick. It’s got a big score and you need to find it a home – and fast. Patience is a virtue but I never found the time to appreciate that.

Take a break from your copy. Get out a piece of paper and write down the phrase. Is it a noun, adjective or a peculiar noun-verb combo? Once you’ve figured out the word’s preferred place in a sentence and how it interacts with those around them, start looking for a place to lay its head. It might involve rewriting a sentence here and there but you’ll find it a home. While we want the search-bots to find the copy, it’s the people who are going to buy, register, download or research. And it must make sense to them. So be careful not to muddy your message to fit in one keyword or phrase.

Or you could simply print out your first draft. Sloppily drink some coffee over it and the location of the biggest drop is where you must jam in your keyword or phrase. Yeah, on second thoughts do that.

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