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Writing For The Web: How Good Copy Becomes Bad Marketing

When it comes to writing websites, what is good for the search engines is often not good marketing. Why? Because almost inevitably, when you write to please the search engines, you write about the features of your service. But you should be writing about the benefits for your customers. This is a fundamental problem and one you have to take into account at every stage of creating the copy for your website. You have to achieve a balance between writing for people or writing for search engine robots. The balance will be subtly different for every business.

You'll probably have to keep experimenting. It all depends really on how important search engine traffic will be to your organisation. First a quick recap on the basic issue of search engine copy. Search engine optimisation (often called SEO) basically means making sure your website ranks highly with Google and other search engines. Google wants to give people the right, relevant information.

It does this by reading the copy on your website. If certain words are used frequently, Google will calculate that the site is relevant for that "keyword". When people search for that keyword, Google flags your site as one worthy of consideration. So, when a copywriter creates his own website, he tries to use the word "copywriter" as frequently as possible. It's no good just listing the word either. It needs to be in real sentences. What's more, it's much better to use the keyword at or near the start of a sentence. You also need the keyword in the main headline, in the first paragraph, and as often as possible thereafter. So, you end up writing about you, the copywriter, and the copywriting that you can offer. Features of your service.

Where are your customers in all this? Any good copywriter, in fact even a complete beginner, knows that you need to turn the features of your service into benefits for the customer. It's just good marketing. The copywriter should be explaining how he can increase sales, attract customers, save the client money, provide exceptional service and so on. The same is likely to happen whatever business you're in. If you're a graphic designer, a client might come to you because they want you to create a professional image for their business. But they don't search for "professional image", "design impact", or "creativity". They search for "graphic designer." So your copy has to keep mentioning "graphic designer" this, "graphic designer" that. What's the solution? If you know an easy one, please share the secret. For most organisations and businesses, the answer is going to be a balance.

You need to know how important Google searches are to you. If the answer is "not much" because visitors come from other sources perhaps through a direct mail campaign, Internet advertising clicks, or because they are a regular customer and have you bookmarked then your copy should weighted more towards good marketing, with less emphasis on search engine robots. But if Google searches are everything to your organisation, then you'll have to play the game by their rules. Carefully written copy can at least try to play both games. You can keep using keywords, but always bear in mind that you need to bring the focus back onto benefits for your customer. It's not easy, and it can be a painstaking process. But that in essence, is what good web writing should be about: keeping one eye on the search engines and pleasing them when necessary, but always bringing it back to people, to customers, to benefits. Because that's good marketing.


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