Copywriting Curiosities
  The writing tips your English teacher forgot to give you... March 2005  

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For the SEO Bookshelf

The best thing you can do is educate yourself. Read websites, read books, and asks questions of fellow writers and desigers alike. Study websites that rank high and ask yourself "why?"

"SEO for Dummies" by Peter Kent is a wonderful, fast read that's perfect for copywriters AND web developers. A must have in the library of any copywriter who claims to know how to write optimized website content.

"The Nitty-gritty of Writing for Search Engines: A Special Report" by Jill Whalen. This handy little guide gives tons of useful easy-to- implement tips to make your SEO copywriting effective without being clumsy. Jill is a master of SEO. Visit her website at

WordTracker Tutorial (comes with subscription) Yes, I did read it. While you may not use every feature in WordTracker, it's important to have a good grasp of the KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index). WordTracker is the premier tool in the industry -- and you don't have to subscribe for a whole year. You can make a one- time commitment and even test a trial version to see if it's the right tool for you.

Check Out My SEO Copywriting Portfolio

   Dear Reader,

Over the last few months, I've received many questions concerning search engine optimization, otherwise known as "SEO." Simply put, SEO involves how search engines (like Google) find websites. Try a Google search on these words: freelance copywriter boston. You'll see that my website ( comes up on the first page. Is this chance? Nope. It's SEO at work. And believe it or not, SEO has a lot to do with the words that appear -- and don't appear -- on the page.

It surprises me how many web developers and copywriters ignore SEO. If you take the time to learn some of these tips, you'll make yourself indispensable to web developers...and your clients. For the next couple of issues, I'll be talking about some SEO secrets that I find helpful.

  • 1. Keyword Phrases
  •   Keyword phrases are the words that appear not only on the web page, but also in some of the designer's coding. How do you come up with these phrases? Research. And the research needs to happen BEFORE the site is built and the copy is written -- not after. Why? The keyword phrases go into the copy, but they also need to go into title tags, file names, and image alt tags. Retrofitting takes time, costs money, and is just not necessary with a little preparation.

    Doing research requires surveying people as to what keywords they would use when searching on the product or service you're writing about, analyzing competitors' sites for the keywords that they use, and then crunching the "words" in a tool such as WordTracker ( WordTracker helps you decide what keywords to target. There's no point in optimizing a site for a certain word if no one is searching on the term to begin with.

  • 2. Keyword Distribution
  •   Once you have your master list of keyword phrases (a phrase should be at least two words long; three to four words are even better), you should distribute them throughout the pages on the site. Use the sitemap as your guide. Decide what phrases you'll use on the homepage, the services page, the "about" page, and so forth. Try optimizing each page for 2-3 keyword phrases. On my site, I don't just talk about "copywriting," I talk about "advertising copywriting." Repeat the phrases as often as you can before the writing starts reading awkward. In terms of how many words you need to have on any given page, I've heard everything from 200 words to 600 words per page. I find that 200-350 words work well while still being manageable for the viewer, especially on the homepage.

  • 3. Bold & Bullet
  •   Search engines like bolded text and bulleted text. In the search engine's "mind," these visual cues indicate that the content must be important. So it makes sense to use your keyword phrases as headlines, in lists, and within links to other pages.

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