Writing web copy for SEO - a beginner's guide
If you mention Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) to anyone with their own website you are likely to receive one of two responses – a look of despair or tears (depending on the emotional fragility of the person you are talking to). Why? Because every website owner wants their site to appear at the top of a search engine’s results, and every website owner knows that means they either have to become an SEO expert or throw money at someone who claims to be one. I can’t claim to be an SEO expert, but I do have a few free SEO tips that you can apply to your website copy to help bump it up the rankings.
SEO refers to a range of techniques that can be applied to a website to push it to the top of a search engine’s results. In basic terms that means when someone types a word or phrase into Google, it recognises the relevance of the website to that word or phase, and promotes it to the top of the results. There are lots of SEO techniques, but I want to focus on what you can do to the words on your website - writing website copy for SEO.
Research your keywords
A keyword is a word or phrase that a potential customer will type into a search engine to find relevant websites. Your first task is to consider what those words are as you are going to populate your website with them. How do you choose your keywords? That very much depends on your business and its market, but you need to think about the type of customer you want to attract. For example, if you are a shoe shop, do you make more sales from “brown shoes” or “black boots”? If the answer is black boots, then that search term has more value to you than brown shoes. Create a list of the keywords you want to optimise. It doesn’t matter how long it is at this point.
Research the competitiveness of your keywords
The next step is to refine your list and prioritise your keywords. This depends on what your competition is like for that word or phrase. The shoe shop owner might find that there are a lot of other established and trusted shoe shop sites that are already ranking highly for “black boots”. Ideally you want to find high value keywords that are, as yet, untapped. There are free tools that will help you see what keywords a website has optimised, but you can also do your own analysis by putting your keywords into a search engine and seeing what sites it throws up. If a keyword is important to you, but has a lot of competition, then you could use a ‘long-trail’ version, such as “black boots for women” or “mid-heel black boots”.
Where to place your keywords
Once you have your list of keywords, it’s time to populate your website with them. You need to place them in meta titles and descriptions; headlines and sub-headings; in image names, alt tags and captions; and finally throughout the content of each page. Take a look around my website. It should be pretty obvious what my keywords are.
Make it readable
It’s all very well shoe-horning keywords into your website copy willy nilly, but don’t do so to the detriment of the text. It has to make sense and read well otherwise visitors to your site won’t stick around and your bounce rate will go through the roof. On that note, is your website hooked up to Google Analytics and are you checking your site traffic and bounce rates?
Produce regular relevant fresh content
The major search engines will not only reward the relevance of your content, but also how fresh it is. That’s where blogs and news pages really come in. They’re a great way of ensuring that your site has regular fresh content. Don’t forget to include your keywords in your blogs, blog titles etc.