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:: Search Engine Copywriting: R.I.P.??

The perceived value of professional website content writing, which should be on the rise as more and more businesses go online, has in the last few years become devalued by the search engines' relentless focus on keyword-enhanced content. How so?

Many SEO firms and their clients are now shopping around for the cheapest search engine copywriters they can find, believing that the craft is simply a matter of tucking a bunch of keyword phrases into some copy and Voila! a recipe for higher rankings and more traffic.

Budgeting For Content

Recently, an SEO company wanted to subcontract their client's search engine copywriting to me. The client had just spent $3000 on an optimized web design, but only budgeted $600 for the copywriting... 1/5 of the total budget!

This would be just fine if he didn't hope to generate income from his online business. But he did. And simply failed to realize that it's the words that do the selling. Not the design. Not the shiny new e-store. Not even the search engine optimization tricks he paid so dearly for.

Search Engine Copywriting Confusion

Many SEOs are contributing to the confusion by selling optimization packages that don't place enough importance on quality search engine copywriting - by which I mean copywriting that not only includes a healthy search term ratio but also uses proper sales writing techniques that help ensure visitors are hit with a message that:

-gets and keeps their attention
-engages them in a personal, meaningful way
-persuades them to browse the product/service line
-motivates them to buy or make contact
-convinces them of the company's credibility and reputation

Cheap SEO copywriting simply cannot deliver all that. What it most often delivers is spammy, keyword-stuffed copy that teeters on the brink of readability.

And this seems to be okay with a surprising number of site managers who just want to rank more highly in the search engines, assuming that conversions will come along for the ride. So they hand over their site to the SEO company believing that rankings is the magic bullet that will make it all happen.

Two Types of Copywriting Clients

As a website content writer and search engine copywriter, I have identified two very different types of clients: Those who come to me primarily interested in professional copy to sell their products and improve their brand awareness. And those who want optimized content for better rankings, period.

I ask all of them some questions about their target audience, unique selling proposition, competitors, etc.

The first group eagerly tackles their homework and usually puts some thought into it, recognizing it deserves their attention because it will ultimately contribute to their goal of a more effective and profitable website.

The second group, the "optimize-me-in-a-hurry" ones, tend to rattle off a few pat answers or just don't respond. I can only assume that for them, website content is solely a tool to appease the search engines, no more important than monthly search engine submissions or meta tags.

Bargain Basement Mentality

This is a frustrating time for web copywriters in the evolution of search. We want to be able to give the full monty (quality search engine copywriting that sells) but a large segment of the SEO marketplace seems to be demanding bargain-basement copy slapped together with a maximum of keywords and a minimum of thought.

Personally I foresee a day, hopefully not too far down the line, when search engine optimization is perceived as "A" factor in online success, not "THE" factor.

...When the power and relevance of the message will matter more than keyword saturation.

...When copywriters will be judged on their ability to write gripping and persuasive content, not on the speed with which they can churn out a string of keywords.

It's time for Google and the other engines to create an algorithm clever enough to rank a site based on the quality and effectiveness of its message. If they could do that, it would reduce their dependence on keyword measurements and put the focus back on content, where it should be.

Article by Heather Reimer @


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