Can a Copywriter/SEO Marriage Survive?

Can a Copywriter/SEO Marriage Survive?

Words (to SEO experts like me) are just tools – tools used to acquire links.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate great writing, a clever turn of phrase or an insightful comment.  But blogs, guest posts and articles are a means to an end – getting higher page rankings for our clients.

At least, that’s the way it has been for most of my SEO career.

Writers treat links in much the same way they regard footnotes and bibliographies – drudgery required to get their amusing stories and searing commentaries published.

At least, that’s the way it has been for writers through much of the new millennium.

Then Google Panda and Penguin came along. They forced writers and SEO experts to live in the same Internet zoo.

It’s a good thing.  We need each other.  But that doesn’t mean we get along.

Us folks in SEO are data-driven doers.  We like to gets things done.  NOW!  Give us an algorithm and we’ll rock it and roll it.  We’ll get the links and the rankings any way we can.

And that’s part of the problem: the contest to win first page rankings turned the Information Highway into an Information Dump.

Here’s another problem: writers need the drudgery of links if they want to get noticed.

Some 16 million men and nearly 19 million women are bloggers, according to the Pew Research Center.  It takes more than a flair for phrasing or a killer sense of humor to stand out among 35 million competitors.

It takes SEO knowledge.

Writers who ignore the power of keywords and links may never earn the six-figure incomes that some bloggers make annually.

And writers who create content for businesses won’t serve their clients’ best interests if their words don’t improve a website’s SEO.

The copywriters who do produce compelling website content that engages readers and increases website rankings can charge premium rates because they deliver results with a positive return on investment.

Successful content marketing — the ideal combination of technology-driven and creative marketing — demands the understanding and strategic use of keywords.

Strategy is crucial.  Google punishes those who use keywords and links with wild abandon. You may not want to include more than one or two in a blog or guest post.  So it’s more important than ever to use them well.

Here are six types of keywords to strive for in those few links:

1. Primary Keywords

This is the trophy keyword — the phrase you hope gets you to the top of the search engines.  Dominos, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s all would like to be number one for “best pizza.”  If you can work an exact match link to your website or your client’s website, go for it.

2.  Secondary and Third Keywords

These are variations on your primary keywords.  In the above example, “pizza best” would be a secondary keyword.  If you owned a vacation rental resort in Park City, Utah, your primary keyword might be “park city vacation rentals,” your secondary might be “park city rentals” and your third might be “park city lodging.”

3. Brand Keyword

Coke and Pepsi are examples of brand keywords.  Unfortunately, unless you’re a company as well-known as those soda giants, your brand keyword won’t help you that much.  But try to include a keyword in your blog or company name.

If you name your business Betty’s Best Blogs, any link that includes your company name will help you rank under “best blogs” as well as a primary keyword would.

4.  Branded Keywords

This covers a wide range of keywords that include all or part of the brand name but that aren’t purely the brand.  If, from the example above, Betty offered other services besides blogs, a branded keyword might be “Betty’s Best Website Design.”

In large corporations, the branded keywords might include a division.  For example, Yellow Book is a division of AT&T and a branded keyword for the company.

5.  Long tail keywords

When you’re writing, you may find that your primary or secondary keywords don’t fit comfortably in a sentence.  You’ve certainly read some awkward sentences that became clumsy because the writer forced keywords into them.

Let’s say your keywords are “buy Vancouver BC real estate.”  You don’t have to force those exact words into a sentence in order to make the keywords count in your rankings.  Many variations count.  For example, “buying real estate in Vancouver BC” or “buying a home in Vancouver” works.

You don’t have to sacrifice quality writing and grace in order to include keywords in your writing.

6.  Other

To keep in Google’s good graces, some of your links shouldn’t match your keywords at all.  Examples include phrases such as “Find out more”, “Visit our site,” or simply “Click here.”

Any link that gets readers to your site helps you in the most crucial way — it increases traffic.  And because links add eye appeal — the blue stands out among all the black letters — you can include links that grab readers’ attention — and get them to click — without using keywords.

A link that contains the words “one-day, half-off sale” is a great natural link.  It probably doesn’t contain a single keyword pertinent to you or your client, but it’s very click-friendly.

State of the Content-SEO Union

Great writing and great SEO don’t need to be incompatible.  And great writing deserves recognition, something SEO can provide. This means that writers and SEO strategists, working together, can achieve high-ranking brilliance.

The partnership of writers and SEO specialists will never be entirely comfortable, of course.  But that’s okay.  Discomfort challenges us to find better and newer solutions.

More importantly, perhaps, is that it forces all of us to provide more value to the people who read our words and the companies who pay us to market them.

 

Post by Todd Mumford

Meet Todd Mumford, Co-Founder and CEO of SEO Visions. Todd is also an entrepreneur, philanthropist and drummer extraordinaire. He resides in beautiful Vancouver, BC with his wife and 2 children.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. It is NO longer a case of copywriter/SEO survival. The question now should be: Can you survive without that marriage? Even before the Panda and Penguin updates, savvy marketers have always gone the copywriter/SEO route. Good SEO got them the traffic they needed while great copy helped them achieve their most wanted response. The truth remains that this isn’t about to change any time soon. So do SEO without good copy or good copy without solid SEO to your peril.

    • I’m not sure I agree, Chimezirim, though I certainly appreciate your opinion!

      Todd (who wrote this post) will probably disagree with me, but Men with Pens has basically grown to its heights on good content alone and simple organic traffic from natural keywording that occurs when we write about a particular topic.

      So I think there’s definitely possibility to survive without the marriage. It’s always nice to go on dates, though ;)

  2. Useful stuff Todd. But I ‘m amazed that there are any copywriters (who actually earn a living in that capacity) who don’t realise the importance of SEO. And it’s not a problem – even before the internet we had people telling us what words they wanted to see. So accommodating these requests is something a true copywriter can do in their sleep. I get along fine with SEO guys, and understand why that’s so important.

    The thing with good writers is that they are also good readers. And when I read your line where you describe copywriting as “a flair for phrasing or a killer sense of humor” I get a sense of someone who doesn’t really appreciate what great writing is about. Great writers are great not just because of the way they say things, but because of what they say – there’s a psychology behind the words.

    This may not be apparent to someone who merely sees words as slaves to algorithms. Viewed in the wider context of getting readers to actually feel and act the way the client wants, and ultimately buy, words are what close the deal – ultimately, after all the traffic has been driven, the only clicks that count are in the heart and mind.

    It’s vital for SEO experts and real copywriters to rub along a little better. But a part of that is getting the former to fully appreciate the latter.

    In the spirit of “rubbing along” I hope I haven’t been offensive. Also, I love your city. As it happens I’ve just written a blog post about the amazing statue that stands in your airport. It probably fails all the important SEO tests, but I wrote it because there was something I wanted to say, and I didn’t really care how many people read it. When I write for clients I’m not so self indulgent!

    Kind regards,

    Jim

    • “Great writers are great not just because of the way they say things, but because of what they say – there’s a psychology behind the words.”

      Now that made my day, Jim. I’m all warm fuzzies!

      I’m sure Todd will like it too, being a pretty great writer himself!

  3. I agree with Jim, slipping in keywords shouldn’t be a problem for any copywriter, it’s just part of the job. The only problem I’ve ever had was when I worked for an agency & a finance client wanted copy in English, specifically NOT about finance but the keywords I had to insinuate into my prose were the Polish for debt and loans.
    A typical case of the agency sales staff offering the moon in a bow and then letting the grunts on the ground deal with supplying gift wrapped celestial bodies.

  4. Hi guys, appreciate the comments!

    Chimezirim – The days of solid traffic without high quality copy – real, meaningful copy that your audience engages with – is coming to an end in my opinion. 2013+ is all about usability and engaging with your customer in ways that will help them value your brand and become a brand ambassador. This, in turn is becoming the new ‘link building’. This is the reason why SEO needs high quality copywriters and vice versa.

    I am putting my money on great writers in 2013+ :)

    Jim – “I get a sense of someone who doesn’t really appreciate what great writing is about”

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. :)

    But it’s important to understand the historical context of how stellar copywriting formally related to traffic building – it was seen as optional – except to large brands. Those days are already coming to an end.

  5. I like to look at it this way. Who reads the copy? And while SEO will say the web spiders for algorithm. Whie writers will say people to enjoy.

    The next question how who finds those words? Again SEO would say computers and writers would say people searching.

    This can go on and on and probably will for years to come.

    The bottom line is “Words do matter” and quality words that drives traffic and finding the right balance always surfaces to the top.

    Just my two cents,

    Eric

    P.S. James I see you changed your gravatar as did I do you like it?

  6. Yeah if you send the copywriter in first and the SEO engineer in second.

    Also set some basic policies around changing the content and you should be fine.

    Why have two positions? I would make one do both.

  7. Hi Todd,

    Thanks for the details about SEO. I have questions because I keep reading conflicting advice:

    1. When you write your post, should you only use 2-3 keywords in the SEO, or should you try to think of keyword searches your audience might type in Google. i.e. parents of adults with disabilities, parents of adults with autism, parents of autistic adults, disability, inclusion, autism, autistic, christmas, gifts….?

    2. What if you can’t find your niche? What if you have tried keyword searches and looking for similiar blogs and you just can’t find any. i.e. There are lots of blogs written by parents and teachers of children with disabilities, there are many blogs from self-advocates writing about their lives with disabilities…, there are blogs about agencies and schools… but I can’t seem to find other parents writing about adults. Since autism stats now say 1 in 88 children will have disabilities, they are going to have to grow up. But how do you find the niche? parenting, disabilities, caregivers, aging…

    I’ve been caged in your Internet Zoo (BTW great analogy with the panda/penguin) for a long while. Thanks for any advice.

    • I’d like to toss out my advice as well, because I think your niche is niche enough that keywords should be a secondary consideration to writing about your topic and to your ideal reader. Ideal reader first, SEO second!

      1. When you write your post, should you try to think of keyword searches your audience might type in Google. i.e. parents of adults with disabilities, parents of adults with autism, parents of autistic adults, disability, inclusion, autism, autistic, christmas, gifts….?

      Try to think of what a person just like you would type into Google on a night where they’re fed up, frustrated and can’t seem to get the answers they need.

      “Dammit! I’ve made four phone calls today about getting meals delivered… no one seems to know what can be done!” *heads to Google* “I’m going to look this up.”

      What would this person type in? Maybe “how to get meals delivered to disabled adult”. I’m guessing, but my point is that these people don’t think in terms of keywords. They think in terms of real life.

      Write for real life.

      2. What if you can’t find your niche?

      You know your niche. You’re writing about what it’s like to raise an autistic adult child and the trials and tribulations and joys and frustrations that involves, not to mention resources, help and books you’ve found, not to mention bitchrants about systems that don’t work.

      You are writing for parents going through or concerned with exactly what you’re living now. That is your niche.

      You wrote: “What if you have tried keyword searches and looking for similiar blogs and you just can’t find any. i.e. There are lots of blogs written by parents and teachers of children with disabilities, there are many blogs from self-advocates writing about their lives with disabilities…, there are blogs about agencies and schools… but I can’t seem to find other parents writing about adults.”

      Sounds to me like you’ve discovered a BEAUTIFUL need/demand that you can fill. If you know there’s a problem and people seeking information but NO ONE is covering it, then why not say, “Damn! I know all about that!” And start writing.

      • Hi James,
        As always, you nailed it. “Write for real life” is my new mantra.

        And I say “Dammit” a lot. And, I’m sure other parents do too. So, “beautiful need/demand” is certainly there. It just gets discouraging so forgive me if I became too personal here.

        Thanks for your advice, I’ll read it a couple (dozen) times and try to let it sink in my brain. :)

  8. Hi Mary, thanks for the questions.

    1. When you are writing content for anyone, you will want to focus on your target demographic – the reader, your customer, fans and followers.

    When you are targeting a particular keyword phase and shaping a particular piece to be developed around a keyword, in general I prefer to develop a keyword cluster – 2-3 tightly associated keywords that have the same general meaning, semantics. Use your phrases naturally in the copy, and always write for the target audience. Never make SEO changes to copy that change the intended feeling or emotion of the piece in order to satisfy SEO.

    That being said, each core keyword has a connected set of topics and those are often overlooked by SEOs and copywriters, because they take research, time and brainstorming to find. I would suggest using Ubersuggest and Soovla to begin understanding more connected phrases to your core keywords so that you can improve the spread and scope of your audience.

    2. Depending on your long term goals for relationship-building, you might want to expand you niche. It’s important to understand who will want to hear your story and content, and then develop content for them that solves a problem, sheds light, or tells a good story and reflects your core message. Often this audience isn’t the core audience you set out or defined, especially in newer niches or niches that are growing rapidly due to research, change in culture, etc.

    “Since autism stats now say 1 in 88 children will have disabilities, they are going to have to grow up. But how do you find the niche?”

    Ask yourself –

    Who would be interested in knowing this, and how can a story or great piece of content be written that will explain why this fact is applicable to their community. I like to ask the question, of any topic, which is ‘So What?’

    If the story reminds us that we matter it counts, regardless, of the niche :)

    Hope this helps!
    Todd

    • Thanks Todd for your thorough and specific answers.

      Ubersuggest and Soovia are new resources for me. I’ll check them out. Also, I’ll cut down to 2-3 SEO tags and keywords, maybe that will help.

      Test, right?

      Thanks again. Mary

      • Charlotte Taylor says:

        Hi, Mary,

        I posted a general comment that included some thoughts about your concerns and I don’t want to waste space by repeating them here. But here’s another: you don’t need Uber-whatever to help you write to your niche. And you don’t need to count keywords. Just share your expertise and compassion with words that are meaningful to you. If you know your audience as well as your comments suggest, the words you choose will become key to your readers.

      • Hi Mary, let us know how it goes.

        Always test, test test :)

        James made some very valuable points in his comment as well.

        Best of luck!

  9. Charlotte Taylor says:

    Great writing that no one reads is a diary. So marketing has and always will be crucial to writers. But I don’t think writers need to know any more than the rudiments of SEO. Knowing about keywords is no more or less important than knowing AP style or submission guidelines. SEO specialists treated writers like sweatshop workers when they could get away with it and married them only when they had no choice (Panda-inspired shotgun weddings.) But the balance of power is back where it belongs: to writers who write for readers, not algorithms.

    The comment James made to Mary makes this point:. Mary has a ready-and-waiting audience who NEEDS her. If she writes to her audience and fills their needs, they will search for her. Her audience will solve the keyword dilemma for her — they’ll adjust their keyword searches to find her.

  10. i’ve been freelancing for almost a year. i have clients who want their articles to contain longtail keywords which are not of proper grammar. and it pains me since it’s against my principle as a writer.

    • Hi Louise.

      I would check the search volume for those keywords to make a determination on whether that tactic is worth doing.

      Also, as Google is expanding it’s knowledge graph, more and more misspelled keywords are being amalgamated into core (correct grammar) searches as ‘Did you mean?”

      I think over time keyword misspelling targeting will lose the emphasis it once had.

      In fact, it is possible that one day it could detract from SEO in my opinion (and certainly detracts from the consumer)

      • Huh?

        I don’t know if Louise understood your answer, Todd, but I certainly didn’t. So, let me rephrase her question to satisfy my concerns, if not hers:

        If a long tail keyword uses improper grammar, is there any reason for the writer to NOT correct it?

        Let’s say the client’s long tail keyword was “luxury vacation retreats Vermont.” Is there any reason to not rewrite it as “luxury vacation retreats in Vermont”? Or “Vermont luxury vacation retreats”?

        I think your comments about misspellings was off the mark but, while we’re on the subject, your “it’s” in “Google is expanding it’s knowledge graph” should be “its”.

        If there’s something I missed in your advice about checking search volume or purposely misspelling words, please explain. But, as a writer, I really want to know if I can comfortably tell clients that proper grammar and keywords can coexist.

        Thank you.

        • Hi Roger,

          I would recommend correcting all grammar and not using improper grammar for a number of reasons:

          1. I feel it looks unprofessional
          2. It really impacts the flow of the piece, and moreover makes serious pieces look sloppy which detracts from the validity of the author or business.
          3. Google understands and has connected misspellings with their “real” (correct grammar) keywords.

          Let’s look at your specific question.

          “Let’s say the client’s long tail keyword was “luxury vacation retreats Vermont.” Is there any reason to not rewrite it as “luxury vacation retreats in Vermont”? Or “Vermont luxury vacation retreats”?”

          I would use the long tail keyword “luxury vacation retreats in Vermont” – because that is correct grammar when used in a sentence naturally.

          “Vermont luxury vacation retreats” also makes sense, again in a sentence when used naturally.

          For most niches there is rarely a need to address the misspellings as specific long tail keywords of concern because the volume is low, and Google naturally attributes the misspelling with the correctly spelled keyword.

          Hope this helps!

          Best,
          Todd

          • Nice article, thanks. Speaking as a freelance copywriter (who often happily writes web copy with an eye for the search engines) penguins and pandas are welcome beasts.

            Peter

  11. Andrew Kelly says:

    The union of SEO specialists and copywriter is not easy at all just like you said. A few years ago, copywriters had to be careful about keeping it short and simple, their work was easy, they did not have to think about using special words with low competition and high searches; they used any word they liked. But today aside from the creative aspect of copywriting, there is the technological aspect, which can sometimes be too troublesome specially for those who are set in the old ways of copywriting. Writers today have to writing long enough for the search engines to index it and short enough for the reader to get it. By the way, the keyword categories that you have mentioned are seriously GREAT! Really useful.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Can a Copywriter/SEO Marriage Survive?, menwithpens.ca […]

  2. […] between the worlds of copywriting and SEO? Convinced you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Men with Pens talks about the marriage between SEO and copywriting, and how you can make it […]

  3. […] SEO and copywriting have long paired up poorly – SEO is about the links, and writing is about the words. Is it a match made in heaven?… or the end of a comfortable relationship?  […]

  4. […] Todd Mumford , CEO of SEO Visions, says the information in the Forbes article should not alarm search engine specialists. For one thing, he says, Google started shielding keyword information months ago and savvy online marketers and company owners are already employing new strategies to test the strength of campaigns. […]

  5. […] Todd Mumford , CEO of SEO Visions, says the information in the Forbes article should not alarm search engine specialists. For one thing, he says, Google started shielding keyword information months ago and savvy online marketers and company owners are already employing new strategies to test the strength of campaigns. […]

  6. […] Todd Mumford , CEO of SEO Visions, says the information in the Forbes article should not alarm search engine specialists. For one thing, he says, Google started shielding keyword information months ago and savvy online marketers and company owners are already employing new strategies to test the strength of campaigns. […]

  7. […] Can a Copywriter/SEO Marriage Survive?, menwithpens.ca […]

Leave a Comment

*